Google Fiber Looking to Expand

Google will be funding a study of 9 metro areas covering 34 cities, to learn what it would take to bring Google fiber to those areas.

The cities chosen vary in size and range, including Charlotte, Pheonix, Portland and Atlanta.  Most of the cities chosen for the study applied during Google’s initial inquiry back in 2010, which went to Kansas City.  Additionally, these cities all currently have some kind of broadband infrastructure upgrade plan already on the horizon.

Google’s study will determine what the construction costs would be to bring fiber to these areas, so there is no immediate promise of Google Fiber for any of these areas.  However, Google will also work with cities to come up with quick, predictive, and efficient ways for deploying infrastructure.

We can expect that it will be the same basic playbook from Kansas City – build out would be residential, Google Fiber would on go to the "Fiberhoods” that expressed sufficient demand, and include certain designated community connections. 

During the exploratory study, Google will be working directly with local officials, like Mayors, City Councils, and City Managers, rather than state Congresses or Governors, because many of the regulations that affect deployment are instituted at the local level. Some of the ways that Google has worked with its other test beds, Kansas City and Austin, include minimizing regulatory hurdles, ease of deployment, and gradually becoming ready for new communications infrastructure deployment.

Local officials can minimize bureaucratic hurdles by quickly responding to permit applications and reducing fees across the board for all telecommunications providers. 

Also in terms of infrastructure deployment negotiated at the local level, rights-of-way are notorious among consumers as eye-sores, especially when the underground construction among multiple providers and city actors is uncoordinated.  Meanwhile, accesses to utilities poles and the associated fees have been points of contention between providers and local governments.

Additionally, cities do not have to go through costly upgrades to become ready for new communications infrastructure development.   During the course of regular maintenance, cities can make space for additional communications equipment attachments on utility poles, add conduits when new roads or other rights-of-way are built, and add communications infrastructure requirements to building codes for new construction.

These types of regulatory changes would not only benefit Google Fiber, but could also encourage new deployments and upgrades from the already familiar providers like Verizon Fios, AT&T U-verse, Comcast, Charter, and Cox.

Fortunately for Google the abusive franchising agreements of the past are no longer in place, so regulatory progress has a chance.  However, because Google predicates its deployment on fiber hoods being “fiber-ready," as in demonstrating significant commitment and demand, regulators need to be careful that they do not cannibalize their current communications infrastructure which is required to cover a particular geographic region regardless of consumer expressed need.

It is unfortunate for the companies already in the cities where Google will deploy that had to deal with the previously mentioned regulatory hurdles and abusive franchising agreements of the past.  The hope is that Google Fiber will push more communities to lower the barriers for maintenance and deployment of communications infrastructure for all providers to encourage healthy competition.