By design, Google has brought its superfast Google Fiber Gigabit Internet and cable television services to only a small number of communities in the United States as it observes how it is accepted and how it can be deployed on a larger scale over time.
The beneficiaries of those Google Fiber experiments so far include residents in Kansas City, Kan., Kansas City, Mo., Austin, Texas, and Provo, Utah.
But if other communities would like to attract Google to come to their towns and cities with superfast service, they’d better do some homework to make their invitations to Google as sweet as they can make them, according to 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.
Hovis, who is also the immediate past president of the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA), wrote a Feb. 11 guest post on the Google Fiber Blog about how local communities can help their own causes in attracting a fiber project in their backyards
“There are certain steps that cities and counties can take that could help attract fiber companies to build private local networks,” Hovis wrote.
Those steps could include making sure that the road right of ways are built to make it as easy and as inexpensive as possible to add new utilities either underground or overhead.
“When private companies build fiber networks, one of the biggest costs is stringing physical fiber lines throughout an entire community, which requires either digging up streets (to put fiber underground) or installing new utility poles (to string fiber in the air),” wrote Hovis .
“If localities want to attract fiber providers, they can help to make this future construction much easier by instituting what’s called a ‘dig once’ policy. Every time the city does road maintenance or needs to dig up streets to reach water or sewer pipes, they can install fiber conduit while they’re already down there.
“Then, they can make that conduit available for providers to lease and pull their fiber through. Not only is this an attractive option to providers who save the time and expense of digging, but it has the added benefit of reducing future disruption for local citizens (who probably don’t want to deal with a future road closure if it can be avoided),” wrote Hovis.
If that is prohibitive, local governments could instead “install large bundles of fiber and make that available to companies or nonprofits who want to build state-of-the-art broadband,” she wrote. “In our experience, the strategy of building conduit or fiber whenever possible is the single most powerful, cost-effective step a locality can take to enable new network development.”
Google Fiber Only Comes to Cities That Have Done Their Homework
To help encourage such a project, municipalities could also “compile a lot of the local infrastructure information they already have—like where existing utilities are—and make that data accessible to potential network providers,” wrote Hovis. “Making this information available will help potential partners kick-start their network planning without having to survey and record the data themselves. In turn, local governments will be able to start substantive conversations with these providers much faster.”
Another key step to accomplish ahead of any such proposals, she wrote, is to find ways to streamline and standardize any related government processes, such as permits. “By establishing a standard permitting process and publishing it for potential providers to see, localities can clearly indicate to network providers that they’re ready for a major infrastructure project,” wrote Hovis.
“These providers can play a role, too—if they decide to build fiber in an area, they can share their building plans with localities ahead of time, and determine a rolling timeline of permit requests, to save localities from being inundated with thousands of permits at once,” she wrote.
More details and recommendations are available to communities that would like to get ready for the fiber-optic networks that are the future, she wrote. “We also have case studies and engineering analysis, all compiled into a report, which can be found on www.Gigabit-Communities.com. We truly believe that fiber networks are essential to our communities’ future economic and community development, and we hope our experiences can help localities as they work toward that fiber future.”
In January, residents in Provo, Utah, 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, Kansas, 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.
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. In April 2013, Google announced that it would 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.
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.