Maybe you've heard: Google Fiber will soon be dropping support in Kansas City for its lowest-level Internet plan.
That subscription tier allowed customers to access the Web for a fantastic $0 per month, after they'd paid a $300 installation fee (which itself could be broken into monthly installments). In exchange, subscribers received a 5 Mbps connection — fast enough for a single Netflix stream and basic Web browsing, perhaps, but not a whole lot more.
That plan has already vanished from Google Fiber's website for Kansas City. Right now, the company is advertising instead a $50-per-month plan that gives you speeds of 100 Mbps — a connection that's 20 times faster than the free plan, and much more expensive.
But for low-income Kansas City residents, that won't be the only alternative replacing the free Internet plan. As part of Google Fiber's bid to provide more access to the poor, the company will begin offering on May 19 a new product to select needy areas as identified by the Census Bureau, the Federal Communications Commission and data from other sources.
Here are the details, as confirmed Monday by Google Fiber: The plan will cost $15 per month and will offer symmetrical speeds of 25 Mbps (that's 25 Mbps on downloads as well as uploads). It'll only be available to eligible areas where a significant percentage of households lack residential Internet access, the company said. Those who live in the designated regions will be automatically able to sign up for the $15 plan and won't have to pay for installation, equipment rentals or other fees.
This is on top of existing agreements to provide Google Fiber for free to public housing projects in partnership with the Obama administration.
Is this $15-a-month plan a good deal for low-income consumers who aren't covered by that partnership? Well, while the product isn't free, it does meet the FCC's current definition of broadband, which is set at 25 Mbps for downloads and 3 Mbps for uploads. The fact that Google Fiber will be providing a symmetrical connection is a plus — it means users will be better able to create online content, such as videos, art and other media.
The price is also pretty competitive. Broadband prices vary by location and provider, of course. But just a quick check of a couple Internet providers' websites suggests that on a cost-per-Mbps basis, the new Google Fiber tier is pretty affordable.
Comcast's program for low-income Americans, Internet Essentials, provides speeds of 10 Mbps for $10 a month, working out to about $1 per Mbps. To other consumers, Comcast also advertises a 25 Mbps connection for $40 a month (so about $1.60 per Mbps).
Verizon, meanwhile, sells a 50 Mbps connection for $50 a month, so roughly also $1 per Mbps.
By comparison, the price of Google's speed tier for low-income Americans works out to roughly 60 cents per Mbps.