Google Fiber tests ultra high-speed network on campus

July 14, 2011, 3:04 a.m.


The 850 homes in Stanford’s residential subdivision will soon be the first location in the country to have access to the “ultra high-speed” broadband Google Fiber network, which will operate at speeds of up to one gigabit per second — more than 100 times what most Internet users across the country have access to.

Installation of the network commenced this past spring. According to Stanford Campus Residential Leaseholders (SCRL) Board of Directors President James Sweeney, also a management science and engineering professor, the Google Fiber project is an opportunity for the residents on campus to participate in a project that will provide more sophisticated Internet service, with perks ranging from video linkages to faster downloads.

“What we got out of it was an opportunity to get us a very cutting edge of the technology with a pricing plan that is attractive,” Sweeney said.

According to its website, the SCRL is a group of staff members that “represents the interests of and acts on behalf of Stanford campus homeowners.”

Campus residents will get free use of Google Fiber for one year after paying for installation. After this period, Google will set a subscription price that residents can choose to pay for further use of the network, according to Sweeney. He also said that some campus residents already have access to Google Fiber.

Several other cities competed earlier this year for city-wide installation of the network. According to a post on the official Google Blog in March, Kansas City was chosen as a location where the project could “build efficiently, make an impact on the community and develop relationships with local government and community organizations.”

Google Communications Associate Jenna Wandres said implementation of the project, which was announced in October 2010, began earlier this year. Google hopes to finish installation soon.

“Stanford is Google Fiber’s first testbed with real customers,” Wandres wrote in an email to The Daily. “We hope this trial deployment will facilitate the testing of new technologies and techniques, enabling us to scale more effectively and efficiently to much larger communities.”

Sweeney explained that Stanford applied for a different Google wireless project several years ago but was not chosen in that endeavor. Instead, Google offered SCRL the chance to be a part of Google Fiber’s test run.

He described the partnership between the University and Google as “a very positive relationship” and disruption from the installation process as minimal.

“There’s things that have come up which they haven’t anticipated,” Sweeney said, explaining that Google broadened its Fiber services free of cost to Olmstead Terrace Staff Housing, which was not originally included in the project’s scope. “They really bent over backward to be very cooperative and have successfully done so.”

Another post on the Google Blog indicates that the company intends “to offer service at a competitive price to at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people.”

Wandres added that Google also hopes that the Google Fiber project will bring “new and unpredictable innovations.”

“Our goal is to experiment with new ways to make the Internet better and faster,” she said.

Although Google is facilitating implementation of Fiber, it will need to collaborate with other companies, including Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E).

“Google needs to work with PG&E to make sure that they avoid the gas lines,” said University spokeswoman Lisa Lapin. “That’s common with any project.”

Lapin said that this would be PG&E’s only involvement in the endeavor.

After the three-year contract between Stanford and Google expires, the organizations plan to reevaluate the network’s operations.

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