Google Inc. will offer its super-fast Internet network — Google Fiber — to Austin’s small businesses by the time the first customers are connected in mid-2014, a company official said Thursday.
“Up until now, we haven’t had a small business offering,” said Gerardo Interiano, Google’s public affairs manager for Texas. “It’s only been for residences.”
The announcement came at the Capital City African American Chamber of Commerce’s meeting on “The State of Black Business in Central Texas.”
Google installed its first Google Fiber network in Kansas City last fall and has announced plans to expand to Provo, Utah, and Austin.
Although Google Fiber initially started as a residential service, Google officials knew there was great interest for expanding to small businesses.
“It was clear people wanted a business offering,” said Jenna Wandres, a Google spokeswoman. “That was our plan.”
She said Thursday that the details, including pricing, is being worked out, but that it is likely the business service will be offered first in Kansas City. She said it should be available in Austin when the network is up and running in mid-2014.
There is a strong economic development incentive for offering 1-gigabit service — 100 times faster than today’s typical broadband Internet access — to small businesses.
“We have to get individuals to understand that businesses are twice as likely to create jobs if they have online customers,” Interiano said.
That is particularly important for the African-American business community that is in “a catch up mode” when it comes to creating businesses that create jobs, according to Hopeton Hay, an expert in minority business development.
Travis County only accounts for 2.6 percent of black-owned businesses in Texas, while Houston, Dallas and Fort Worth claim 60 percent. But Hay said Austin’s black-owned businesses have higher average revenue than their counterparts around the state.
However, there remains a “significant gap” between the revenues for black-owned businesses and other businesses, Hay said.
Chris Genteel, head of Global Diversity Markets for Google, told the chamber audience that “the future of economic development is on the Internet.”
He urged business owners to get online with a mobile-friendly website and to use social media and cloud-services to find customers and do business cheaper and faster.
Nationally, only 42 percent of small businesses have a website, Genteel said.
Members of the Capital City African American Chamber of Commerce are doing better.
Genteel said 83 percent of the members answering a Google survey said they have a website for their business. But he said only 48 percent of the chamber members say they use the website to generate business.
“It means your website is a billboard in the desert,” Genteel said.
He also said only 48 percent of the members report having a mobile-friendly website although Internet use on smart phones is expected to surpass Internet use on computers this year.
“Mobile is here and now,” Genteel said.
Google, which sponsored Thursday’s conference, has had a yearlong partnership with the Capital City chamber that includes underwriting the chamber’s Black Technology Council.
That is not by accident.
In April, Kevin Lo, general manager of Google Fiber, said it expected to engage the community.
“That is something we learned in Kansas City,” Lo said. “We wanted to be more proactive about engaging with community stakeholders…We will have an opportunity to meet with people and help them understand what we are doing and work together to figure out how people can take advantage of this speed.”
Natalie Madeira Cofield, president of the Capital City African American Chamber of Commerce, said that was one reason for Thursday’s conference.
“I think it’s important for minority communities to understand how Google Fiber will be rolled out,” she said. “And for us to advocate to have it in our community because I believe there is a economic development component to having Google Fiber there.”
Cofield said Google Fiber is important for African-Americans.
“Knowing that there is a gigabit Internet connectivity is surely going to increase the value of the neighborhood, business opportunities that might pop up, start-ups that might show up and things of that nature,” she said. “So I want to make sure that minorities are at the table for that.”