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Google explores ultra-fast Fiber service for dozens of cities

SAN FRANCISCO, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Google Inc is exploring a major expansion of super-fast cable TV and Internet web to deliver its content and services by extending its nascent Fiber network to 34 more cities across the United States.

The search giant said in a blogpost on Wednesday it has reached out to cities from nine metropolitan areas around the country, including San Jose, Atlanta and Nashville, to discuss the feasibility of building out Fiber, which Google says delivers the Internet at speeds up to 100 times faster than average existing networks.

Google currently provides Fiber service, at a rate of up to $120 a month, in the Kansas City metropolitan area. Last year, it also announced plans to expand in Provo, Utah and Austin, Texas.

As Google delivers more music, videos and other content to mobile devices, it has become increasingly invested in ensuring it gets the bandwidth it needs. Web-access projects like Fiber could also help grow revenues beyond its maturing search business, and give it more insight into consumers' online habits -- which, in turn, is crucial to making ads more effective.

But building high-speed networks is a cumbersome process that typically requires tearing up streets and working with local governments to get access to utility poles and approvals.

In the blogpost, vice president of Google Access Services Milo Medin said the company will work with city leaders to try and make use of existing infrastructure -- such as conduits, and water, gas or electricity lines -- to minimize disruption.

Medin stressed that Fiber may not ultimately prove possible for every city they consider.

"We plan to share what we learn in these 34 cities," Medin wrote. "It might not work out for everyone. But cities who go through this process with us will be more prepared for us or any provider who wants to build a fiber network."

Some industry experts say Fiber, at speeds of around 1 gigabit per second, may eventually pose a challenge to existing Internet providers though not right now, with its miniscule coverage.

AT&T Inc said last year that it was ready to build its own 1-gigabit-per-second fiber network in Austin, provided it received the same treatment from local authorities as Google.

Comcast Corp, which will become the largest cable provider in the country if it passes antitrust scrutiny for its proposed $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable, argued to regulators this month that over time Google Fiber could potentially threaten its business.

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