Olathe, Kansas, a city of 125,000 residents located about 20 miles southwest of Kansas City, will be the next municipality to receive Google Fiber, the tech giant’s highly touted superfast Internet service, the company announced Tuesday night. The announcement came minutes after the Olathe city council voted unanimously to approve an agreement with Google.
Although the Olathe expansion is a relatively modest step for Google, it is significant for two reasons. First, Olathe will become the largest city outside of Kansas City to receive Google Fiber. Second, the move could foreshadow further Google Fiber expansions in Kansas and beyond.
Google says its fiber-to-the-home product provides customers with broadband Internet speeds of 1 gigabit per second — roughly 100 times faster than the average U.S. connection — as well as crystal clear television service. Last fall, after years of preparation, Google began rolling out the service in the Kansas City metro area, which includes Kansas City, Missouri, and the smaller Kansas City, Kansas.
In Kansas City, Google offers three tiers of service. The baseline fiber installation fee is $300, or $25 per month for 12 months. After paying that amount, Kansas City residents are guaranteed seven years of free broadband Internet service at current national “average” speeds. The second tier costs $70 per month for the super-fast Internet service, and the top tier, which includes Google’s TV service, costs $120 per month. The $300 installation fee is waived for the top two tiers.
According to the agreement approved Tuesday, Google could also potentially roll out Wi-Fi service for Olathe residents. “Olathe residents have embraced innovation and technology like few others,” said Mayor Copeland. “Our vibrant community spirit is truly second to none and I’m pleased Google recognized this in choosing Olathe as the largest Johnson County city in which to invest thus far.”
Google Fiber’s expansion into Olathe sets up the tech giant to compete with Comcast, the nation’s largest cable company, which is one of the the city’s largest broadband providers. For years, industry observers have speculated that Google could eventually get into the business of providing broadband service. In January, Google announced plans to provide free Wi-Fi in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City. The search giant also offers free WiFi in its home city of Mountain View, Calif.
Many observers believe that Google’s ultimate goal is to shame the legacy broadband giants like Comcast and Time Warner Cable (which was spun off from TIME parent company Time Warner in 2009), by demonstrating that vastly faster broadband service is possible in the United States. Improving U.S. broadband speed and penetration is important for Google, because the more people who use broadband Internet, at faster speeds, the more Google searches get executed, and the more money Google makes.
The company said Tuesday that it hopes to roll out Google Fiber in other Kansas cities soon. In January, BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield predicted that Google would roll out its service to a second major market this year. Olathe doesn’t qualify as a major market, but it is an incremental move forward. “This is a small step on that path,” Greenfield told TIME by email. “We believe this is just the beginning.”
Google Fiber community manager Rachel Hack observed that Olathe has become one of the fastest-growing cities in Kansas, and has attracted an influx of new businesses and residents. “They’ve all noticed what a great community Olathe is, and so have we,” Hack wrote. “We think that Fiber and widespread Internet access will help to create jobs, grow local businesses, and make Olathe even stronger as it grows.”
Since Google launched the Kansas City fiber rollout, the company has been touting what it calls the emergence of “Silicon Prairie.” The company points to initiatives such as Kansas City Startup Village, an entrepreneur-led project with the ambitious goal “to help solidify Kansas City as a premiere startup city in America.”
“Tonight’s announcement is about our future and the endless possibilities for Olathe students, businesses, and entrepreneurs who will no doubt leverage this technology and connectivity to achieve things that are truly innovative and transformational,” said Mayor Copeland.