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Google announced last week it had reached an agreement to expand its 1 gigabit per second Google Fiber service to Olathe in suburban Johnson County outside of Kansas City. Olathe is more than 20 miles from Kansas City, Kansas. As I know little about Kansas, I was surprised to learn that Olathe, with a population of 125,872, is the fifth largest city in the state. Olathe represents a bit of a geographic leap for Google, which until now has focused on the two Kansas Cities (Kansas and Missouri) and has struck agreements with three other towns in the inner suburbs. This surprised some observers, who had expected Google to try and maintain a tight geographic concentration.
It also means Google Fiber will be taking on Comcast for the first time. Previously, it has been in areas where Time Warmer Cable has been the incumbent provider and AT&T's U-verse serves some.
Comcast responded with an announcement yesterday that is sure to scare the pants off of Google. It said it would be doubling its download speeds for its Blast tier in Olathe from 25 Mbps to up to 50 Mbps (1/20th of Google's potential speed), and its upload speeds from 4 Mbps to up to 10 Mbps. And all this at no extra charge! In fairness, Comcast has been announcing a similar enhancement in many of its service areas around the country, although the specific timing of this announcement is perhaps curious.
An interesting historical side point is that Milo Medin, Vice President of Access Services for Google, a brilliant engineer who heads up the Fiber project, was a co-founder of @Home Network, in which Comcast was a significant investor as it looked to expand its broadband services to residential customers back in the 90's. Although @Home achieved some success in that objective, a disastrous 1999 merger with Internet search engine Excite and the subsequent tech meltdown led to its bankruptcy in 2001.