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Passed Over by Google Fiber, Louisville Eyes Its Own 1Gbps Plans

July 09, 2014

Passed Over by Google Fiber, Louisville Eyes Its Own 1Gbps Plans

By Tara Seals
TMCnet Contributor

The country has a clear ‘digital divide,’ between those with adequate access to broadband and those without, and it falls along population lines. However, communities everywhere are realizing that abundant high speed Internet access is essential for sparking innovation, driving economic growth and improving education, and many have made high speed broadband a pillar of their economic development plans.

Witness the extensive fiber Internet plans afoot for residential and commercial areas in the Louisville, Ky. Area. According to the Louisville Business Journal, the city’s Metro Council is expected to approve three franchises for trenching next-gen infrastructure in the area, with a vote coming as soon as July 15.

Ted Smith, chief of civic innovation for Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government, told the paper that the three 1Gbps Internet service proposals cover a small-scale residential area (BGN Networks LLC, a subsidiary of BluegrassNet); a broad-scale residential area (SiFi Networks Louisville); and one commercial district (FiberTech). The companies are acting in the vacuum left when Google (News - Alert) decided not to bring its 1Gbps fiber build to the town.

Google has been inviting cities to have exploratory talks with the search giant to determine "what it would take to bring them Google Fiber."  The company works with each city's leaders on a joint planning process that will map out a projected Google Fiber network in detail, and also assess what unique local challenges it might face, like topography (eg, hills, flood zones), housing density and the condition of local infrastructure. Meanwhile, cities complete a checklist and provide maps of existing conduit, water, gas and electricity lines for trenching, along with ways to access existing infrastructure — like utility poles — that could be leveraged.

"Over the last few years, gigabit Internet has moved from idea to reality, with dozens of communities working hard to build networks with speeds 100 times faster than what most of us live with today," said Milo Medin, vice president of Google Access Services. "People are hungrier than ever for faster Internet, and as a result, cities across America are making speed a priority."

But it was not to be for Louisville, which decided to do it on its own. "From our perspective, when Google passed over Louisville before Mayor (Greg) Fischer came into office, there was a subset of people ... who were pretty upset," Smith said. "And so, while we can't make Google pick us ... we're doing everything we can with what we can do."

While the city isn’t coughing up any funding for the projects, it did decide to put incentives in place to remove bonding requirements and eliminate red tape in order to make the builds more cost effective for the companies.

Meanwhile, places like Louisville could get help soon. Initiatives like the National Broadband Plan are intended to narrow the gap between city-dwelling populations and those in Tier 2 markets and below, and President Obama has a stated goal of reaching 100 million people with 100Mbps broadband by 2020. The rest meanwhile are mandated to have at least some form of “broadband” (currently defined as 4Mbps by the FCC (News - Alert)) in the same time period. However, it’s nice to know that the private sector is taking matters into its own hands as well, building out fiber where it sees a good economic case.

Edited by Maurice Nagle
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