Plans for eventual Google Fiber high-speed Internet and cable television service in Overland Park, Kansas, were halted Sept. 16 by the city's leaders as they pondered the potential legal issues surrounding who will be responsible if problems develop with the services.
The one-month delay, until Oct. 14, was announced in a Sept. 17 story by The Kansas City Star, which reported that the City Council delayed their decision because of a liability concern in the proposed legal agreement with Google.
This apparently marks the first time that Google has run into delays in communities where it has proposed hookups to its ultra-high-speed Internet and cable television services. Google Fiber debuted in Kansas City, Kan., and Kansas City, Mo., in the fall of 2012. In April 2013, Google announced that it will bring the service to Provo, Utah, just eight days after it unveiled plans to bring Google Fiber to Austin, Texas. 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.
Bill Ebel, the Overland Park city manager, told eWEEK on Sept. 17 that the delay on approving the Fiber deal came over indemnity language in a contract the city was asked to sign. "Essentially, Google has asked the city to indemnify them for any third-party claims … and there is no limit to it," said Ebel. Instead, the City Council is seeking extra time to ask Google to make changes to the indemnity text by limiting any indemnity with a cap that would place a maximum amount of any such liability, said Ebel. "Everything else was generally supported. The council made it clear they are very interested in getting Google Fiber here for the city."
A Google spokesperson told eWEEKthat the postponement of the contract decisions was not expected. "It's clear to us that Overland Park's citizens want Google Fiber—they applied for it back in 2010, and we've heard a steady stream of requests coming from local residents ever since," the spokesperson said. "We want to bring them service, and we were surprised that the City Council decided to postpone their vote on Fiber."
Rob Walch, an Overland Park resident who attended the council meeting where the postponement was announced, told eWEEK that he was not happy with the government's action.
"I was hoping to go to the meeting and watch as Overland Park made history" in bringing in Google Fiber, said Walch, who works for a podcast hosting company. Instead, he said, he heard council members ask questions about how many computers in the schools could get Internet access for free as part of the deal and was taken aback by their lack of knowledge about the agreements.
"I was shocked by their lack of technical savvy," said Walch. "They don't have the big picture on this at all. There was no talk at all about the benefit of having Google Fiber" in the community, he said. "The only thing they asked about was the free Internet access for schools and public places. I was shocked that Overland Park didn't approve it. I don't think they have any idea on council about how big a deal Google Fiber is."
Walch said he's not hopeful that the city will still get the services after causing the delay until October. "I don't think it will happen now," he said.
Google's first Fiber deployment in the United States has been happening in Kansas City, Kan., and Kansas City, Mo., where the company has been unveiling Google Fiber since the fall of 2012, with plans to go national in the future. In December 2012, Google announced that five more neighborhoods in Kansas City would be getting its fiber services. Installation of the fiber network in the Kansas City area began in February 2012, when the laying of fiber cable got underway.
In the recently announced Austin Fiber project, 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.
Early results from the Kansas City rollout have been promising for Google Fiber based on Internet speed ratings reported by Netflix each month. Based on the small but growing deployment Google Fiber has in Kansas City today, the service is ranked No. 1 for Internet speeds across the nation, compared with competitors, according to the Netflix numbers. Google Fiber is listed at 3.45M-bps average speed, compared with 2.39M bps for its nearest rival, Cablevision Optimum.