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Portland Commissioners Approve Google Fiber Franchise

June 13, 2014

Portland Commissioners Approve Google Fiber Franchise

By Gary Kim
Contributing Editor

Portland, Ore. city commissioners have voted unanimously to approve Google (News - Alert) Fiber's 10-year franchise agreement with the city, the Oregonian reports.

Google is expected to make a decision on whether to proceed later in 2014.

The franchise terms do not permit Google Fiber to operate “as a telecommunications service provider,” though Google could apply to do so separately from the Oregon Public Utility Commission and the Federal Communications Commission.

So far, Google Fiber has chosen not to offer voice services over Google Fiber networks.

As has been the case both with Google Fiber and other gigabit services to be provided by other firms such as AT&T (News - Alert), Google Fiber will have the flexibility to build in areas of its own choosing.

Google Fiber also must offer a free 5 Mbps service to any customers who desire it, where the network is available, for a period of seven years. Customers for such a service must pay a connection fee, however.

Qualifying non-profit groups also will get free access, and Google Fiber also will build three public Wi-Fi access zones in Portland.

In return, Google Fiber will pay a franchise fee of five percent of gross revenues.

Google Fiber will be able to provide video entertainment service, though not under regulations that apply to “cable TV” providers as defined in the Communications Act of 1934, as amended by the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

Google Fiber’s investigation of possible new Google Fiber networks in eight other metro areas, in addition to Portland, focuses on three key infrastructure items Google says will make construction more efficient, and increase chances a metro area will get Google Fiber.

The checklist covers some concerns are traditional for cable or telco access providers: access to municipal poles and duct work.

Such access is more or less routine but Google Fiber will go where there is room on poles and in ductwork, especially where a metro area contains several municipal entities. And Google wants municipalities to do the work of gathering all that information, both municipal-owned and private assets.

Likewise, Google Fiber wants “accurate information” about utility poles, conduit and existing water, gas and electricity lines. Again, you might think that is routine, but it can be time-consuming for a would-be access provider to dig up all the information. Google also wants municipalities to help Google get conduit and pole access in an efficient and timely manner.

The third concern concerns the efficiency of permitting processes, which could entail thousands of separate construction permits, as well as identification of locations where cabinets can be sited.

Google Fiber wants municipalities to streamline those processes so construction can start faster. 

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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