Industry watchers said they hoped that Google's entry into the marketplace would spur competition and innovation, but they tempered their enthusiasm. In most places across the country, consumers have one or two options for high-speed Internet, usually from their cable or telephone provider. Service providers have been pouring tens of billions of dollars into upgrading their networks, but the speeds they are aiming for are not nearly as fast as what Google is proposing. Until now there has been little competitive pressure to force providers to take more aggressive action.
"The promise it represents is exciting," said Ed Black, chief executive of the nonprofit Computer & Communications Industry Assn. "But people shouldn't assume that this means we'll suddenly have an amazing new player."
Since 2006, Google has operated its own free wireless network in Mountain View, Calif., where it has its headquarters. It won a bid that same year to offer a similar service in San Francisco, which ran into trouble when EarthLink Inc., which was going to build the network, backed out and the plan ran into opposition from some city officials.
Mountain View's wireless network stretches over 12 square miles and was installed over several months at a cost of about $1 million, said Ellis Berns, Mountain View's assistant community development director.
"They've been very responsive and are continually upgrading the system with new equipment to improve the capacity and speed at their own doing, without requests from the city," Berns said.
Google said it would accept proposals from communities interested in the service until March 26. Google will work with contractors to build the fiber-optic network, Ingersoll said.
Jeffrey Silva, an analyst with Medley Global Advisors, said Google's Internet project wasn't likely to make an immediate difference to the average consumer. But, he said, "10 years from now it could make all the difference in the world."