Google Fiber ends free service in Kansas City

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When Google Fiber started wiring up Kansas City neighborhoods, they came with a pretty sweet offer: pay a one-time installation fee, and you get internet service for free after that.

Well, it looks like that offer is coming off the table. If you want their service, Google says you’re going to have to pay up.

The company recently announced they would be dropping the free service in its first market. Tech news website Re/code noticed the change Saturday, which a Google rep confirmed to the site, but declined to comment further.

The free option offered 5 megabit download speeds, which for many casual internet users was sufficient. The company also offers a “super fast” gigabit service for $70 a month.

In place of the free option, the company is pushing Fiber 100, it’s not as fast as the gigabit option, but it’s 20 times faster than the free tier and it costs $50 a month.

Tech analysts at Re/code speculated that Google is facing pressure to turn Fiber into a viable, competitive internet service provider. That means increasing revenue, cutting costs, and recruiting more subscribers.

The chief financial officer of Google Fiber’s parent company, Alphabet, told investors last week that Google Fiber is one of the company’s biggest expenses.

Google Fiber hasn’t made available its figures on subscribers, but in slashing the free option, they will also stop charging the installation free, which may have kept many potential customers from signing up.

Subscribers to the free option have until May 19 to keep their initial agreement, which lasts up to 7 years, after that they’ll have to sign up for a paid service, or find another ISP.

Google Fiber will still offer the basic service in limited capacity to “digitally divided neighborhoods” through an initiative coordinated with the Obama Administration, meaning low-income and public housing neighborhoods may still receive a low cost service.

The company said in a statement they were ” introducing a Broadband Internet plan for the most digitally divided areas we serve on both sides of the state line, determined using publicly available data from the U.S. Census and Federal Communications Commission (FCC). For $15/month, residents in these neighborhoods will get speeds up to 25 Mbps. There’s no application process, no service contracts, no equipment rental, no data caps, and no construction or installation fees.”