San Antonio is the next stop in Google's campaign to bring high-speed Internet connectivity to cities across the U.S. Today's announcement brings to nine the total number of communities where the company either has already installed, or will soon install, Google Fiber for gigabit-per-second connectivity.
Google eventually plans to deploy its high-speed network infrastructure in 34 metropolitan areas across the U.S. Three cities -- Kansas City, Austin and Provo -- already have access to Google Fiber services, which deliver connection speeds of up to 1,000 Mbps.
Many officials in Washington, D.C., and in cities across the country have said the nation needs better access to high-speed Internet services to complete on a global level. Advocates say low-cost broadband services, currently defined in the U.S. as download speeds of 25 Mbps or higher, are vital for economic development in today's environment.
'Narrowing the Digital Divide'
With 1.4 million residents, San Antonio will be the largest city to date set to receive Google Fiber, according to Mark Strama, head of Google Fiber in Texas. The city already has a thriving tech landscape that includes the first all-digital public library in the U.S., Strama noted yesterday in a post on the Google Fiber Blog.
"Hundreds of startups have found their home in the Alamo city through collaborative workspaces and accelerators like Geekdom and Cafe Commerce," Strama said. "Moreover, San Antonio's recent selection for President Obama's Tech Hire and Connect Home initiatives will help create a pipeline of tech jobs and narrow the digital divide."
That divide remains fairly wide, globally speaking. Average download speeds of 11.9 Mbps put the U.S. at 19th globally, far behind countries such as South Korea, ranked first with average download speeds of 23.6 Mbps; Ireland, in second place with an average speed of 17.4 Mbps; and Hong Kong, which comes in third with average download speeds of 16.7 Mbps, according to Akamai's most recent "State of the Internet Report" for Q1 of this year.
4,000 Miles of Cables
Strama said Google will soon enter the design phase for building the fiber network in San Antonio. Over the next several months the company will work with city leaders to develop plans for deploying more than 4,000 miles of fiber-optic cables -- "enough to stretch to Canada and back" -- across the region, he said.
Other cities named this year as destinations for Google Fiber include Atlanta, Charlotte, Nashville, Raleigh-Durham and Salt Lake City. Among the other communities the company has publicly identified as potential Google Fiber candidates are Phoenix; Portland, Oregon; and San Jose, California.
Last month, Google also announced a program to bring no-cost high-speed connectivity to "select" public housing and affordable housing locations as part of the ConnectHome initiative launched by the White House and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The company has already partnered with HUD to connect low-income residents in four Google Fiber cities: Atlanta, Kansas City, Nashville and Raleigh-Durham.