Google's always tiptoed around directly providing internet access to consumers with things like free airport WiFi and the free WiFi network it runs in Mountain View, but today the company announced that it's getting in the game for real with the launch of a fiber-based ISP service that'll offer 1Gbps speeds at "competitive prices" to select markets. The idea is to provide next-gen access to between 50,000 and 500,000 people and basically see what happens -- and, as you'd expect, the new network will be a poster child for Google's pro-net-neutrality efforts. Sounds good to us, but we've all got a ways to go before Eric Schmidt comes over with the lightpipe -- Google's just now asking for "interested communities" to apply, and launch markets will be announced later this year. Video after the break.

P.S.- Remember when Google bought all that fiber back in like 2005 and sparked all those rumors of a "GoogleNet"? It's probably unrelated, but at least there's a name to kick around.

[Thanks, Kevin]

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Google launching 1Gbps ISP service to select markets at 'competitive prices'