No cheap plan options Fiber network still has room to grow
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No one goes to a nice steakhouse because it's cheap. Quality takes priority over price and, even though you could have spent less somewhere else, the experience more than justifies the cost. The same can be said about Google Fiber internet.
The fiber-optic provider has one of the highest starting prices of any top ISP at $70 per month, but considering what you get -- symmetrical upload and download speeds up to a gig, free equipment and unlimited data -- the cost is quite reasonable. In fact, Google Fiber plans have arguably the best value you'll find from any major ISP.
I live in a Google Fiber city (Charlotte, North Carolina) but my address is unfortunately out of the provider's service area. The recently resumed Google Fiber expansion could eventually bring the ISP to my address, and I'll consider signing up if it does, because the value is too good to pass up.
Google Fiber's availability is nowhere near rival fiber providers like AT&T, Verizon Fios or CenturyLink, but it offers service in some reasonably large metro areas.
Locating local internet providers
Kansas City and Huntsville, Alabama have the most significant Google Fiber coverage, but service can also be found in parts of Mesa, Arizona; Orange County, California; Atlanta, Georgia; Charlotte and the Raleigh/Durham area of North Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; Austin and San Antonio, Texas; Salt Lake City and Provo, Utah; and now also West Des Moines, Iowa.
Google Fiber expansion continues
The list of cities that have access to Google Fiber is growing, as is the availability in markets where Google Fiber is currently.
Furthermore (and encouraging to a suburbanite like myself), Google Fiber shows signs of expansion outside major city limits. For example, Google Fiber is set to expand into Concord and Matthews, North Carolina, two Charlotte suburbs I would not have expected to see such a premium service.
I'm still waiting for Google Fiber to reach me a little further south of Charlotte, but if it's available in your area or where you're moving to, here's what you can expect as far as plans and service details are concerned.
Google Fiber plans and service details
Google Fiber has two to four plan options depending where you live: 1Gbps or 2Gbps, plus new 5Gbps and 8Gpbs plans. The latter two are currently only available in select areas, though a Google Fiber spokesperson has confirmed with CNET that the provider aims to roll out both plans to all markets later in the year.
More and cheaper plan options would be nice (Google Fiber previously offered a 100Mbps plan for $50 per month), but I have to admit I like that gig service is the baseline. As streaming in HD and 4K become the norm and we're connecting everything from smartphones and tablets to speakers, thermostats and a plethora of other devices to the internet, plans with speeds around and below 100Mbps are becoming less practical, even if they are easier on the budget.
Getting back to value, Google Fiber plans are actually better priced than most, even though no "cheap" option is available. At $70 per month, Google Fiber's gig service is priced lower than fiber providers AT&T, Frontier and Verizon Fios and cable ISPs including Cox, Spectrum and Xfinity. Then there's the $100 per month 2Gbps plan, which is still cheaper than what some providers charge for a single gig service.
A good indicator of value is the cost per Mbps, which you can find for any internet plan by dividing the monthly fee by the max speeds. Google Fiber's 1 Gig plan starts at $70 per month for speeds up to 1,000Mbps, which comes to an estimated cost per Mbps of 7 cents. The 2 Gig plan is even lower at 5 cents per Mbps. A sub-dime cost per Mbps is often a great internet deal, and the cost per Mbps of Google Fiber plans is on par with or lower than most providers at any speed tier.
Google Fiber's 8 Gig plan, though not yet widely available, actually boasts the lowest cost per Mbps (less than 2 cents), of any major provider or plan. It's still a bit pricey at $150 per month, but the speeds you get more than justify the cost.
Straightforward pricing with no added fees
Google Fiber doesn't have introductory pricing, so you don't have to worry about a looming price increase after 12 months. That's not to say the price will never go up, but there's no guarantee that it will after a certain number of months.
Additionally, Google Fiber plans come with unlimited data (so no overage fees) and no contracts with a required service length (so no early termination fees). Unlimited data and no contracts are becoming more common among ISPs. Still, some big-name providers will require you to sign an agreement to get the lowest pricing or tack on $50 or more in overage fees for exceeding your data limit.
No equipment costs, even for mesh Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi 6 routers
Google Fiber's 1 Gig plan comes with a Wi-Fi router and up to two access points, which extend the range and coverage of Wi-Fi service throughout your home, up to around 3,000 square feet. You can purchase more access points for $100 each if you need additional coverage. You also can use your own router, but seeing as how Google Fiber includes one at no extra cost, I can't imagine why you'd want to unless you need a top-of-the-line router for serious gaming or other specialized uses.
The 2 Gig plan comes with a Multi-Gig Wi-Fi 6 router, the latest available Wi-Fi technology and estimated to be roughly 30% faster than the previous Wi-Fi iteration. The technology is exciting, but Wi-Fi routers can be a bit pricey, so it's nice that Google Fiber includes one at no extra cost. Like with the 1 Gig plan, Wi-Fi extenders are included if needed to ensure whole-home Wi-Fi coverage. There is no option to use your own equipment with the 2 Gig plan, but the device should be more than suitable for any standard home internet use.
How does Google Fiber stack up against competitors?
If Google Fiber is available in your area, it's safe to assume you also have a cable provider and possibly even another fiber provider available at your address. In that case, you'll want to know how Google Fiber compares.
Compared to other fiber providers -- or really any ISPs -- Google Fiber will have a higher starting price. You'll find lower monthly starting prices from AT&T Fiber ($55), CenturyLink ($30), Frontier Fiber ($60) and Verizon Fios ($50) but again, it is worth noting that these cheaper plans come with significantly lower speeds. If those speeds, typically around 200 to 300Mbps, are sufficient for your household, a more affordable plan like what's available from AT&T or Verizon Fios may be your best bet.
There's arguably no better gig or 2-gig provider
If you're interested in gig service, Google Fiber will be tough to beat, even among competing fiber providers. At $70 per month, the starting pricing for Google Fiber's gig service is lower than AT&T, Frontier and Verizon ($80 to $90 per month). Lumen's Quantum Fiber internet, formerly known as CenturyLink Fiber, is the same at $70 per month, but the provider currently doesn't offer a 2-gig plan or the same quality when it comes to Wi-Fi equipment.
As for comparing gig service from Google Fiber to cable internet providers like Spectrum or Xfinity, not only will Google Fiber probably be cheaper, it'll likely also be faster (at least the upload speeds will be) and more reliable. Fiber internet often delivers symmetrical upload and download speeds, something cable internet can't do. In the case of Google Fiber's 2 Gig plan, you'll get max upload speeds of 1,000Mbps compared to max download speeds of 2,000Mbps, but that's still incredibly fast.
Upload speeds with cable internet top out at around 50Mbps, so you won't get anywhere near the same upload speed potential with cable internet service. The connection quality of a fiber connection is also typically better than a cable one, which can be susceptible to slowed speeds due to network congestion, especially during peak usage times.
Where does Google Fiber rank on customer satisfaction?
In its most recent report, the American Customer Satisfaction Index separated fiber from nonfiber providers or services. The move allows ISPs such as AT&T, Frontier and Kinetic to distinguish customer satisfaction between its DSL and fiber-optic services. It also made room for Google Fiber to be included in the public results, whereas it was previously grouped under "all others."
Google Fiber scored a 76/100, a point above the category average and a full 10 points ahead of the average for nonfiber providers. AT&T Fiber and CenturyLink were the only providers named above Google Fiber, while Google Fiber scored above Frontier Fiber, Xfinity Fiber and long-time customer satisfaction leader Verizon Fios.
Diving a little deeper, I turned to the Better Business Bureau to investigate the number of complaints, if any, customers had filed against Google Fiber. There were over 2,000 complaints filed within the last year alone. However, as I waded through them, I found that most were about other Google services, such as YouTube Premium and Google Ads, Google devices, or problems with digital content and merchandise purchases. I couldn't find a single complaint specifically referring to Google Fiber.
The bottom line on Google Fiber
If you've got the need for speed, there is perhaps no better provider than Google Fiber -- if, that is, service is available in your area. Google Fiber has some of the best pricing on gig service and favorable service terms such as free equipment rental, unlimited data and no contract requirements, further adding to the value. However, the service isn't for everyone, especially those looking for a cheap plan under $50 per month. Be sure to consider all of your home internet options before committing to one in particular.
Google Fiber FAQs
Does Google Fiber have 5 Gig?
Google Fiber recently introduced a 5Gbps with symmetrical upload and download speeds in four of its 12 markets. The plan is now available in Mesa, Arizona; Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas; West Des Moines, Iowa; and Salt Lake City and Provo, Utah.
A Google Fiber spokesperson confirmed with CNET that the provider does plan to roll out the 5 Gig plan to other Google Fiber cities later this year along with the new 8Gbps plan currently available in Arizona and Iowa.
Is Google Fiber still expanding?
Yes. After a brief pause in expansion and pulling out of Louisville, Kentucky, the provider has resumed expansion in all current markets and some new ones. The provider recently brought service to West Des Moines, Iowa, and broke ground in three new locations: Mesa, Arizona; Omaha, Nebraska; and Lakewood, Colorado.
A Google Fiber spokesperson confirmed the expansion efforts, stating the provider is "building on our mission to connect more people to fast, reliable internet in Google Fiber cities across the country. Google Fiber construction teams are actively working to build out our networks in each one of our existing Fiber cities, and we're expanding to new neighboring communities in some of those cities."
Google Fiber availability is still highly limited -- less than 1% of US households are eligible for service -- but the provider is looking to change that with continued growth in current and new markets.
Is Google Fiber the fastest internet?
Google Fiber's new 8Gbps plan certainly makes it one of the fastest internet providers, though not the absolute fastest you may find. Ziply Fiber recently started offering a 10Gbps plan, and smaller, local providers may offer even faster speeds in select areas.
Google Fiber does, however, offer the fastest entry-level plan of any major provider. While many fiber-optic ISPs have plans starting at speeds of 200Mbps, 300Mbps or lower, Google Fiber's "slowest" plan offers symmetrical speeds of up to 1,000Mbps.
Is Google Fiber here to stay?
Considering recent growth in existing and new markets, there's no indication that Google Fiber is going anywhere anytime soon, other than into new households and cities.
The release of two new 5Gbps and 8Gpbs plans further indicate that Google Fiber is intent on not only expanding its coverage areas, but also its plan selection and speed offerings.
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David AndersSenior Writer
David Anders is a senior writer for CNET covering broadband providers, smart home devices and security products. Prior to joining CNET, David built his industry expertise writing for the broadband marketplace Allconnect. In his 5 plus years covering broadband, David's work has been referenced by a variety of sources including ArcGIS, DIRECTV and more. David is from and currently resides in the Charlotte area with his wife, son and two cats.
ExpertiseBroadband providers, Home internet, Security Cameras