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Ultra-High-Speed Internet Coming Soon, But Not Soon Enough for Some

Google Fiber, AT&T U-verse GigaPower lead the pack as broadband gets a boost

When you’re a production company specializing in television commercials and Web-based content, you need a fast connection to the Internet — a really fast one.

That’s one box Bark Productions and its sister company 19 Below have ticked. In 2014, the Kansas City-based companies, which have worked with clients such as McDonald’s, Walmart and PetSmart, exchanged their broadband service from AT&T U-verse and Time Warner Cable, respectively, for Google Fiber. And they’ve never looked back.

“We’re continually uploading and downloading things for clients to review,” says Brad Slaughter, a partner in both firms. “Those speeds have been dramatically increased because of Google Fiber.”

The service offers speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second; that’s 100 times faster than the average national broadband speed and 50 times the previous gold standard speed, delivered by Verizon FiOS.

Ultra-high-speed Internet service, like Google Fiber or AT&T GigaPower, is the envy of many around the country, one of the topics of Variety’s Entertainment and Technology Summit. Gamers are particularly happy with it. As the gaming industry shifts to a digital distribution model, via services like Valve’s Steam, and digital storefronts from Sony and Microsoft for their home consoles, ultra-high-speed Internet lets players quickly acquire new titles — and software updates (which can take an hour or more to download) can be obtained almost instantly.

A growing panoply of companies offer ultra-high-speed Internet. Both Google and AT&T are predictably bullish on the potential of the service and plan to expand it.

They’re not likely to do so at the pace people would like, though, due to the high cost of infrastructure. Goldman Sachs estimates it will cost up to $140 billion to reach 100 million U.S. households with the necessary fiber-optic lines. (AT&T and Comcast have dedicated more of their budgets to Internet provider operations.)

The slow national rollout, though, has prompted some cities to take matters into their own hands. Chattanooga, Tenn., has created its own ultra-high-speed Internet services. In February, the FCC overturned laws that prevented cities from providing high-speed Internet. Tennessee has already filed suit attempting to block that ruling — ironically, stopping Chattanooga from expanding its service to other cities.

The service has a downside for content owners: Downloading and seeding pirated films on services like Bit Torrent is easier. A 10GB file boasting Blu-ray quality can be obtained in under 10 minutes.

Still, the consensus is demand could increase the pace of expansion.

“I think if we moved, we would definitely prefer to have Google Fiber installed,” Slaughter says. “If it wasn’t an option, that would definitely be a step backwards for us.”

What: Variety Entertainment and Technology Summit New York
When: April 30
Where: Le Parker Meridien, New York

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