A Month on Google Fiber

 

If you’re a resident of Provo, UT, chances are you’ve seen these rainbow-rabbit Google Fiber trucks scurrying about for the past several weeks- and I couldn’t be more glad for their presence.

fiber truck fleet

At long last, Google Fiber has expanded their ultra-high-speed internet service to Provo! Compared to other services like DSL (via telephone wire), Cable, or satellite, Google Fiber utilizes a fiber-optic network for data and television transfer, and it just so happens that Provo already had one (more-or-less) installed, cutting down on the extensive retrofitting requirements that other cities would demand.

I’d been waiting for Fiber since April of last year, after the mayor teased that Provo would have an epic announcement– one that I (surprisingly) predicted:

In brief, Google Fiber offers three tiers of service:

  1. Basic Internet 5Mbit/s: $30 installation fee, $0/mo for 7 years.
  2. Gigabit Internet 1Gbit/s: $30 installation fee, $70/mo (no contract!)
  3. Gigabit Internet, 200 Channels TV: $30 installation fee, $120/mo +taxes. Includes ‘free’ Nexus 7 tablet, one set-top box/DVR (up to four possible), requires 2-year contract, a bummer for constantly-moving students.

As our complex paid for the hardware installation (a fiber tap), I only had to pay for the technician to install the modem- a whopping $0.10

Fiber Registration feeSince our apartment is strung with CAT5, I hooked the modem through a Belkin gigabit switch, which split to each of our private rooms/routers.

The results?

fiber fast

932.56Mbit/s Download

933.80Mbit/s Upload

That’s FAST. [Fun fact: you need a wired connection to take advantage of Fiber’s full capacity. Even if you’re running the latest 802.11AC router/wifi at 5GHz, you’ll barely reach a third of the speed, if optimally placed, as noted below:]

shoop?

Having suffered through the headaches of Veracity and Comcast (including spotty connection, underpowered apartment wifi service and eight straight days of a connection blackout prior to Fiber’s installation) Google’s service has been a breath of fresh- no… a torrent of pure insanity.

Gigabit Internet transfer speed (as opposed to Gigabyte in storage terms) should offer a theoretical 125MB/s (megabytes per second) maximum. That said, your transfer speed is only as fast as the site it’s hosted on. Let’s look some real-world numbers:

  1. Steam (Gaming App): 40MB/s peak, 38.8MB/s average download
  2. Dropbox (free account): 2-4MB/s [respectable]
  3. iTunes Movie: 10.5MB/s [good enough for HD movies]
  4. Google Drive: 5.6MB/s [oddly low?]
  5. Backblaze: 26Mbps [full system backup ‘to the cloud’ for $5/mo]
  6. Torrent (Ubuntu): 30MB/s
  7. YouTube 4K Content: 34MB/s [playback requires 1.6MB/s]

Titanfall (PC) has consistently pinged at 13ms, Xbox Live has had zero (bandwidth-related) hiccups, AppleTV3 streams at 1080p with minimal delay, and the latest cellular devices/apps snap to any site almost immediately.

I even chose to reinstall StarCraft II via remote download, as the DVD installer, due to the nature of DVD’s, runs slower than the network installer [22.16MB/s from DVD vs 46MB/s from network].

Dang.

As a content creator, I’ve been looking at the possibility of shooting using a 4K ProRes pipeline- with Google Fiber, swapping dailies with editors around town is now an economically viable option. Comcast and Veracity have been spamming the area, trying to retain customers with slight discounts and higher bandwidth, but nothing can beat Google’s speed.

34 other cities are currently discussing the possibility of implementing Fiber; I’d like to see this service expand, not only to bask in a firehose of data nationwide, but to also encourage other telco service providers to ‘up their game’.

 

UPDATE: Their stock modem/router (a dual-band 802.11N device) is initially configured via the Fiber/Billing section of your Google account, not directly via HTTP firmware. Deeper in the online menu, the account holder can activate the ‘Advanced Settings’ switch, allowing users to directly access the firmware interface, and modify their SSID, wireless channels, password,  access control/port forward, DNS, UPnP, and Dynamic DNS services (though Google’s official terms don’t permit web hosting).