Google Fiber's biggest hook has always been its $70 gigabit internet access, but there has usually been a far more frugal option: you could get free 5Mbps service if you were willing to pay a construction fee. However, that choice appears to be going away in at least one city. Google has quietly dropped that free tier in Kansas City, its first Fiber area, and has replaced it with a 100Mbps option that costs $50 per month. Anyone using the free tier has until May 19th to say they want to keep it. The company hasn't explained the move (we've asked Google for comment), but customers in Austin and Provo still have that choice; Atlanta never had it to start with. Also, this doesn't change Google's plan to offer free service in low-income areas.
It's odd for Google to yank an offering like this, but Recode suggests that this could reflect a broader change in strategy. Simply put, Google has fiercer competition from incumbent carriers -- it may have to offer a fast-but-affordable selection to get those customers for whom the gigabit option is either too costly or sheer overkill. On top of that, dropping the installation cost (it's waived for everyone if you commit to one year) increases the chances that Google Fiber will reach apartments, where any kind of initial fee might be too much. Whatever the motivations, Google is clearly beyond the days when Fiber was merely an experiment in very high-speed internet access -- it has to be a money-maker.