Internet service

Photo Credit: Michael Baez | Daily Texan Staff

With Austin set to become the second city in the country to adopt Google Fiber, the new Internet service announced its initial pricing plan and unveiled the location of its downtown office.

Mark Strama, head of Google Fiber in Austin and former state representative, also announced the costs for the three tiers of service. The basic tier offers a 5 MB download speed and 1 MB upload speed and will cost a $300 construction fee but will not require users to pay a monthly fee. The second tier offers 1 GB of upload and download speed, and costs $70 per month, which Strama said will be an asset for people who need access to an above average amount of content. The third tier includes the 1 GB speed and Google Fiber television service, which offers 150 high-definition channels and costs $130 per month.

Google Fiber’s new workspace, located at the former site of the Austin’s Children Museum at Second and Colorado streets, will open in December, when the Internet service will become available to citizens living in South and Southeast Austin. Google Fiber uses fiber-optic cables to deliver connection speeds that, according to Google, are 100 times faster than current standard broadband speeds.

Strama said the 23,000 square-foot space will not only be a place to experience the Internet and television services — but also a place to host the community.

“When Whole Foods opened that store on Sixth and Lamar, they called it their ‘love letter to the city of Austin,’ and I thought that we needed something to capture that spirit,” Strama said. “We anticipate having town hall meetings and political forums, as well as concerts and hack-a-thons and really cool technology-centric events.”

Google Fiber spokeswoman Kelly Mason said she believes the product will provide those in the technology industry, specifically application developers, the opportunity to create products that were formerly not sustainable on a typical broadband network.

“Google Fiber came about because we saw that Internet speeds in the U.S. were falling behind, and there was an artificial ceiling being put on innovation because of lower speeds in the web,” Mason said. “The future of the web is built on innovation, and these high speeds will support that.”

Google Fiber will not be available on and around UT’s campus when it launches in December, although Strama said there is a possibility that surrounding student housing areas will be eligible to get the service if enough people sign up.

“We’ve been in ongoing discussions with Google — as we would be with any other service — and are happy to continue that conversation,” UT spokesman Gary Susswein said.

BEIRUT — Internet service went down Thursday across Syria and international flights were canceled at the Damascus airport when a road near the facility was closed by heavy fighting in the country’s civil war.

Activists said President Bashar Assad’s regime pulled the plug on the Internet, perhaps in preparation for a major offensive. Cellphone service also went out in Damascus and parts of central Syria, they said. The government blamed rebel fighters for the outages.

With pressure building against the regime on several fronts and government forces on their heels in the battle for the northern commercial hub of Aleppo, rebels have recently begun pushing back into Damascus after largely being driven out of the capital following a July offensive. One Damascus resident reported seeing rebel forces near a suburb of the city previously deemed to be safe from fighting.

The Internet outage, confirmed by two U.S.-based companies that monitor online connectivity, is unprecedented in Syria’s 20-month-old uprising against Assad, which activists say has killed more than 40,000 people.

Regime forces suffered a string of tactical defeats in recent weeks, losing air bases and other strategic facilities. The government may be trying to blunt additional rebel offensives by
hampering communications.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland condemned what she called the regime’s “assault” on Syrians’ ability to communicate with each other and express themselves. She said the move spoke to a desperate attempt by Assad to cling to power.

Syrian authorities often cut phone and Internet service in select areas to disrupt rebel communications when regime forces are conducting major operations.

The government sent mixed signals about the Internet outage but denied it was nationwide. The pro-regime TV station Al-Ikhbariya quoted Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi as saying that “terrorists” have targeted Internet cables, interrupting service in several cities.

Separately, state-run TV said the outage was due to a technical failure that affected some provinces, adding that technicians were trying to fix it.

Activists in Syria, reached by satellite telephones unaffected by the outage, confirmed the communications problems.

A young Syrian businessman who lives in an upscale neighborhood of Damascus, which some refer to as part of “the green zone” because it has remained relatively safe, sent a text message to an Associated Press reporter Thursday that said the Internet had been cut in his area and that mobile phone service was cutting out.

The opposition said the Internet blackout was an ominous sign that the regime was preparing a major offensive.