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Google taps San Francisco for high-speed Internet

To speed up the rollout, Google will use existing fiber rather than build a network from scratch. But that means only certain neighborhoods will be eligible.

Google's high-speed fiber service is coming to San Francisco but only to some neighborhoods.

Photo by Google

San Francisco has joined a half-dozen other cities in queue for Google's high-speed fiber Internet service.

Google will bring the service to some apartments, condos and affordable housing properties in San Francisco, the search giant said in a blog post Wednesday. But the rollout comes with a catch.

Instead of laying down the necessary fiber from scratch, which is a time-consuming process, Google will use existing fiber networks to try to deploy the service more quickly. However, this means only certain sections of San Francisco will qualify. Areas without existing fiber are out of luck for now.

Google Fiber is the company's effort to rev up Internet access in the United States, where average speeds are lower than in many other countries. Faster Internet performance would be a boon to consumers and businesses alike, for everything from shopping to streaming movies. Google's not alone in the quest. Other providers, such as Comcast and AT&T are also looking to offer higher-speed Internet access.

At 1 gigabit per second -- or 1,000 megabits per second -- Google Fiber is significantly faster than the average Internet connection in the US, which was measured at 12.6 megabits per second in the third quarter of 2015, according to network provider Akamai. Internet access through Google Fiber costs $70 per month.

This isn't the first time Google will use an existing network to launch its fiber service. In Provo, Utah, Google Fiber travels over a network the company bought from the city. In Atlanta, Google uses existing fiber to offer its service to certain apartment buildings. And Monday, the company said it will offer Google Fiber in Huntsville, Alabama, using part of a network the city plans to build.

Google Fiber currently is available in Kansas City, Atlanta, Provo and Austin, Texas. In addition to San Francisco, the cities slated to get the service are Salt Lake City, San Antonio, Huntsville, Nashville, Tennessee, and Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, both in North Carolina.

Another 10 locales, including Los Angeles, San Diego, Portland, Chicago, Tampa and Louisville, Kentucky, are on Google's list of potential Fiber cities. "Before we build a brand new network in a city, we first work through a checklist process with the city, which is what we're doing in places likes Louisville and Tampa," a Google spokeswoman said Thursday. "Once we work through that process, we can confirm whether we can bring Google Fiber to the city. That's what 'potential Fiber city' refers to."

As part of its San Francisco rollout, Google aims to offer free gigabit Internet access to residents at some public and affordable housing properties. The company also said it will team up with the Nonprofit Technology Network, which will teach people how to use the Internet, set up email accounts and apply for jobs online.

Google added that it couldn't provide a timeframe or other details on the San Francisco rollout because so much work needs to be done ahead of time. But residents and property owners interested in Google Fiber can enter their address on a Google Fiber page to learn if and when the service may come to their location.

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