Dear City of Charlotte,
We are at the cusp of an online revolution. This year, Google will be bringing Gigabit Internet to Charlotte through Google Fiber, a service which is 100 times faster than the services we’ve been using for the past decade. While Google is not the only provider of gigabit Internet (AT&T and Time Warner have both upgraded their Internet speeds in response), their collaboration with Charlotte represents a major shift in our online digital presence. Our community, which has been embedded in traditional business and creative practices for so long, now has the opportunity to be at the forefront of innovation, convenience, and discovery. ((* Note: In order to achieve gigabit internet speeds you need to have a computer, modem, and AC wi-fi router that support the speed. We recently purchased a gigabit wif-fi router for less than $100 (TP-LINK Archer C7 AC1750 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Router) and have been pleased with the results.))
Whether this is news to you or not, such a major online shift comes with some equally major questions. What does this mean? How could Internet be any faster? How will this change my online experience? I’m here to answer these and more and show you why Gigabit Internet is worth getting excited about.
A Brief History
For many years, traditional Internet speeds for residents in Charlotte have ranged from 10 to 50 Mbps. At this rate, an HD video can be downloaded or uploaded to your computer in minutes. Sounds great on paper, but not particularly eye opening. Some of you may have recently had your download speeds upgraded to 300 Mbps, a noticeable improvement, but still far from our full online potential.
In 2015, Google announced that Charlotte was selected to be a Google Fiber city. Google’s Fiber Optic Internet boasts download and upload speeds of 1,000 Mbps (or one gigabit per second) across all devices. AT&T responded by bringing fiber Internet to some areas of Charlotte and Huntersville while Time Warner upgraded residents to 300 Mbps download speeds for free. Already, you are seeing the benefits of competition and should find many more to come.
While you may expect Charlotte to be a late adopter to Google Fiber, it’s actually one of the first in the nation. Currently, cities with this service include Provo, UT , Kansas City, MO, Austin, TX, and Atlanta, GA and 7 others (including Charlotte) are on the way (to learn more, go to https://fiber.google.com/newcities/). This places Charlotte at the forefront of the current Internet landscape, years ahead of traditional hubs like NYC and LA.
What’s Gigabit Internet?
In simple terms, Gigabit Internet is incredibly fast Internet. It’s the Flash after drinking two cups of coffee fast. It quite literally feels super human. Compared to your current Internet service, it’s up to 100x faster.
What if you’re still not convinced? Maybe abstract superhero references don’t appeal to you or you don’t think a faster Internet affects what you do on the current day to day. So instead of telling you why you should care, let’s look at specific real-world examples to show how this will transform your online experience.
Seconds, Not Hours
If there’s one message that I want to burn into your memory, it’s this: seconds, not hours. The same task that took an hour on cable Internet—downloading HD movies, uploading a vacation’s worth of photos, or transferring a week’s worth of files—will take 36 seconds on Gigabit Internet. That’s because a traditionally hour-long process is 100x faster on Gigabit and one hour (or 3,600 seconds) divided by 100 reduces a process to a mere 36 seconds. That’s just math.
While this makes the big tasks seem small, imagine the benefits on the small scale as well. Minute-long tasks like waiting for HD YouTube or Netflix videos to buffer will take a fraction of a second. Listening to your favorite workout playlist on Spotify will never have that disastrous pause that ruins your flow and you’ll be able to share a photo to or from Facebook in an instant.
I know that Gigabit Internet will change our daily life because I’ve seen it myself. Take videos, for example. I take a lot of HD videos of my two-year-old son on my iPhone and I’m sure you do as well. Actually, I hope you’re taking videos of your son or daughter, not mine. Anyways, like you, I love to share these online. There’s rarely a moment when I’m not sending a quick video to my wife or uploading something to YouTube for my friends and family to watch. Before, this used to be a minor inconvenience. I always wondered why it took longer to upload a video online than it would to record it. A minute-long video would take 10 or 20 minutes to put on YouTube or several minutes to message or email. With Gigabit Internet, it took seconds. So again, seconds, not hours.
I decided to test how long it would take for me to share some of my digital memories using fiber Internet compared to my traditional cable speeds. This is what I saw while using fiber at only 70% of its full potential:
● On my MacBook, it took 14 minutes to upload 271 jpg files to Dropbox. On cable, this same task took 78 minutes.
● On my iPhone, it took 10 seconds to upload a 1-minute long HD video to YouTube. On cable, this was 10 minutes.
● On my iPhone, it took 5 minutes to download a 30 minute TV Show. On cable, I would spend 25 minutes.
The value of Last-Minute Internet
For me, I like to describe Gigabit services as “Last-Minute Internet.” With our old speeds, the Internet required foresight and preparation. Downloading a movie before a big trip required a purchase from the night before and forgetting to have all your eggs in a basket could make your computer, tablet, or phone feel useless when you needed it most. With Gigabit, that need to prepare disappears in an instant. Those 4 movies you forgot to download before your flight only takes 15 minutes instead of 4 hours. That app you needed before your meeting now appears on your phone in the time it takes for you to say “Hello.” Finally, we have an Internet that moves at your pace.
I was just old enough to remember dial-up Internet. It. Was. Slow. Cable Internet changed everything. That's not hyperbole. The Internet changed with high-speed cable. Faster speeds meant innovators could create websites that just weren’t possible with dial-up. Do you know why Facebook wasn’t invented in the 90s? Because it couldn’t be done. The same goes for all the sites of today’s World Wide Web. We have cable Internet to thank for social media sites like Facebook and Instagram, file sharing sites like Dropbox and Google Drive, video sharing sites like YouTube and Vimeo, website creation sites like Wordpress and SquareSpace, and on and on. And here’s the thing: we didn’t know we could create these sites until we had the speed of cable Internet.
Think about that with me. Were people sitting around, building sites like SquareSpace and YouTube in their heads telling themselves, “If we ever have Internet speed much much faster than this dial-up, I’m going to make this?” No, of course they weren’t. First came cable Internet, then people saw what they could do with it, and then came the innovations.
Remember, history repeats itself. Right now, we’re transitioning from cable to fiber Internet. In a few years, fiber Internet will be the standard. To have this service in Charlotte means that all of the innovation we’ve seen over the past decade will finally come from our intellectuals, businesses, and communities. Instead of waiting for these services to come to you, Charlotte’s online future is ours to make.
Here’s my point: Just like the end of those dial-up days, we don’t know what the Internet will look like 5 or 10 years from now. But, we do know it will look vastly different than how it looks today. We’ll look back on the websites of today like the Wild Wild West. “What were we thinking?” our kids will say to us. And what’s more, Charlotte is one of the few leading the way of tomorrow’s Internet.
To learn more about Google Fiber in Charlotte, please go here: https://fiber.google.com/cities/charlotte/.
Thank you to Zach Cardais from Zeffective for writing today's post. To stay informed on Gigabit Internet deployment in Charlotte, please sign up for our newsletter with the link below, and follow @CLTHeartsGB on Twtter.