The channel line-up includes Nickelodeon, Discovery, Bravo, Starz and Showtime (which may require additional fees) but is missing AMC, HBO, CNN, Fox News and ESPN. Google spokeswoman Jenna Wandres wouldn't say why the channels were missing, but said the line-up would expand.
Google said it will only start hooking up households in neighborhoods where a sufficient number of people want service. Kansas City residents have six weeks to pre-register for service, after which Google will decide which areas have enough interest.
Google will also offer a slower Internet option, at a DSL-like 5 megabits per second, with no monthly fee to households that pay a $300 installation fee. The free service is guaranteed for at least seven years, but is available only in neighborhoods where enough people have pre-registered.
The $70 fee is more than what cable or phone companies charge for basic Internet service, but the service is also much faster. "Gigabit" speeds, or 1,000 megabits per second, are generally unavailable from other companies. One exception is the city-owned electric utility in Chattanooga, Tenn., which has pulled its own fiber and sells gigabit service for $350 per month.
Kansas City, Mo., Mayor Sly James, who attended the news conference Google held in a converted yoga studio in midtown Kansas City, was clearly pleased with the announcement.
"We now have an opportunity to take a giant step and if we don't it's all on us," James said. "It's going to be a great educational tool ... that's going to create innovators and entrepreneurs, and that's exactly what we want."
There are few ways for consumers to take advantage of gigabit speeds. For everyday activities such as Web surfing, email and video-watching, there will likely be no substantial difference. The higher speeds will help with video sharing and online backups.