Google Fiber's option for free basic Internet service has quietly disappeared from its list of plans in Kansas City (Kansas and Missouri), where the service was first launched.
Since Google first began installing its high-speed Internet infrastructure in Kansas City, residents have had three services options: a $130-per-month plan with gigabit-speed connections and TV programming, a $70-per-month connectivity plan with speeds of up to 1,000 Mbps and a basic 5 Mbps plan that was free after payment of a $300 construction fee. That third option has now been replaced with a $50-per-month plan offering speeds of up to 100 Mbps.
First reported over the weekend by Re/code, the change wasn't mentioned on either the Google Fiber blog or the Google Fiber Twitter account. Google Fiber plan pages for other cities, including Atlanta, also show that the 100 Mbps plan is now the lowest-cost option available.
Growing Number of Fiber Cities
Initially launched as an experiment to "help make Internet access better and faster for everyone," Google Fiber is now available in Atlanta, Austin, Texas, Kansas City and Provo, Utah. Google has announced plans to bring the service to seven other metropolitan areas, and there are nearly a dozen other cities on its "potential" list.
Google did not respond to our inquiry about why it has changed its service options in Kansas City. However, Ars Technica reported yesterday that Google said the free plan was still available to new customers in some parts of the city through May 19.
Working with the Housing Authority of Kansas City, Google Fiber announced in February that it would bring gigabit-speed Internet service to "residents in all public housing properties that we connect." That effort is part of Google's partnership with the federal ConnectHome initiative to speed up Internet adoption among low-income families with school-age children.
U.S. Speeds 14th Globally
While Google Fiber hasn't released recent customer figures, Alliance Bernstein analyst Carlos Kirjner published research last fall that put the number of subscribers at over 427,000 homes and 96,000 businesses.
The U.S. has the fastest Internet connection speeds in the Americas, with an average of 14.2 Mbps in the fourth quarter of 2015, according to the latest State of the Internet report from Akamai Technologies, released last month. Between 2014 and 2015, there was a 29 percent year-over-year increase in average network speeds in the U.S., the report noted.
Globally, however, the U.S. still lags behind a number of other countries, currently sitting in 14th place. South Korea continues to be the global leader in Internet connection speeds, averaging 26.7 Mbps in the fourth quarter of last year, followed by Sweden, Norway, Japan and the Netherlands.
Image Credit: Google.