The rollout of Google Fiber ultra-high-speed Internet and cable television could get a huge boost in coverage areas across the United States as the company today unveiled plans to potentially bring its services to another 34 communities across nine metro areas of the nation.
The 34 additional communities—which are clustered around the Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; Nashville, Tenn.; Phoenix; Portland, Ore.; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; San Antonio; Salt Lake City; and San Jose, Calif., metro areas—will be invited to work with Google Fiber to see if they are interested in having the Gigabit-speed cable TV and Internet services brought to their communities for new subscribers.
The expanded Google Fiber service area proposals were unveiled by Milo Medin, vice president of Google Access Services, in a Feb. 19 post on the Google Official Blog. The specific communities within these metro areas that will actually get Google Fiber services will be chosen and announced over the next year, according to Google.
In a conference call with reporters today, Kevin Lo, general manager of Google Fiber, said the company is taking the lessons it has learned from the first service rollouts in Kansas City; Austin, Texas; and Provo, Utah, since 2012 to discuss the additional expansion plans with the latest communities.
Not all of the 34 communities that will now be in discussions with Google for Fiber service will ultimately get it in this round, said Lo, but by having such discussions, those communities will likely be in a better place to receive service from a fiber partner in the future because they will know what is needed to make such a venture happen. Much of the coming discussions will revolve around the legal, construction, permitting, infrastructure and other local issues that have to be addressed when building a complex fiber system, he said.
"To build large fiber networks in cities can be disruptive," so Google wants to work with them to figure out how to do it in the best ways possible, said Lo. "We want to minimize digging up streets, so we will see how much fiber we can run on overhead utility poles or inside existing conduit [underground]. Building these networks is a really big job, so a little bit of planning goes a long way."
Google Fiber officials will be traveling starting immediately to work with officials in the 34 communities on the latest service expansion list to discuss the logistics and to see if the services will be welcomed and are workable in those communities, said Lo.
Asked by eWEEK during the call why Google Fiber has so far only targeted smaller metro areas around the U.S. and has not yet proposed its services in large cities such as New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles, Lo didn't exactly address the issue. "One of our observations has been that civic leaders, including mayors and others leaders, have a big role to play in inviting fiber" into their communities, said Lo. "Our focus right now is really on our existing Fiber cities. We can't build everywhere at once."
Large cities would certainly present their own huge challenges due to higher residential densities, larger areas and older infrastructure, but Lo didn't discuss those issues at this point.
Joining Lo on the call was Julian Castro, the mayor of San Antonio, which is one of the metro areas on Google Fiber's latest potential service expansion list.
"Here in San Antonio we have a very clear vision for the community we are trying to build," said Castro. "San Antonio looks forward to working with Google to make this happen in our city. We're confident that we can. This will be good for our citizens in our community and for our economy."
Google Fiber's ultra-high-speed Internet and cable television services debuted in Kansas City, Kan., and Kansas City, Mo., in the fall of 2012, according to an earlier eWEEK report. In April 2013, Google announced that it would bring the service to Provo just eight days after it unveiled plans to bring Google Fiber to Austin. The Provo project was the third U.S. community to be slated for Fiber service so far. Other cities, including Prairie Village, Kan., Mission Hills, Kan., and Roeland Park, Kan., have also recently approved service plans for Google Fiber.
Lots of important details will go into the reviews of new service proposals in the affected communities, according to Medin's blog post.
"We're going to work on a detailed study of local factors that could affect construction, like topography (e.g., hills, flood zones), housing density and the condition of local infrastructure," he wrote. "Meanwhile, cities will complete a checklist of items that will help them get ready for a project of this scale and speed. For example, they'll provide us with maps of existing conduit, water, gas and electricity lines so that we can plan where to place fiber. They'll also help us find ways to access existing infrastructure—like utility poles—so we don't unnecessarily dig up streets or have to put up a new pole next to an existing one."
And just in time for today's news, Joanne Hovis, a communications policy expert and president of CTC Technology & Energy, an independent communications and IT engineering consulting firm that works with public sector and nonprofit clients throughout the U.S., wrote a guest post earlier in February on the Google Fiber Blog that laid out how local communities can help their own causes in attracting a fiber project in their own backyards. Her post detailed hints such as making sure that street right-of-ways are built to make it as easy and as inexpensive as possible to add new utilities either underground or overhead, while also adopting "dig once" policies that provide for the installation of fiber lines underground whenever the city does road maintenance or needs to dig up streets to reach water or sewer pipes.
In January, residents in Provo began to get the chance to sign up for their Google Fiber services.
Elsewhere around the nation, Google Fiber deployments continue to be in the news. In Overland Park, Kan., Google Fiber service was put on hold indefinitely by Google in October 2013, a month after city leaders on Sept. 16 delayed an imminent contract agreement and raised last-minute liability concerns.
The development appeared to be the first time that a community had delayed a decision on Fiber after their discussions with the company, and the first time that Google has then put its original plans on hold just before a decision was scheduled for a final vote.
In Austin, Google says it plans to start connecting homes by mid-2014. Customers there will have a similar choice of products as those being offered in Kansas City, including Gigabit Internet or Gigabit Internet plus Google Fiber TV service with nearly 200 HDTV channels.