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Can a City Get Punished For Standing up to Google Fiber?
by Karl Bode 05:04PM Wednesday Oct 16 2013
After being one of the only towns or cities to hold up Google Fiber because of liability concerns, Overland Park this week appeared poised to do a 180 and approve the deal, which city officials tell me remains identical to other deals in the region. Unfortunately for the city, locals who attended a town meeting Monday night informed me that instead of accepting the deal, Google stated that their deployment to Overland Park was going to experience an "indefinite continuance."

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While Overland Park is home to Sprint -- and local incumbent Time Warner Cable certainly has a history of scuttling competition using underhanded tactics -- there has been no evidence that Overland Park's trepidation was anything other than the city looking out for its own best interests.

Numerous cities have been so eager to get Google Fiber, they've signed rather sweetheart deals that, for example, allow Google to simply walk away from builds should TV subscriber uptake numbers not be met. Perks also include the right to redline and cherry pick deployment neighborhoods (though the resulting digital divide may be obscured by fun "fiberhood" rallies), something traditional ISPs have lusted after for years -- but found blocked by many traditional franchise obligations.

We've worked with Overland Park for a number of months now, and we need to refocus our energy and resources on engineering, designing, and building a new fiber network for the communities who are waiting for Fiber.
-Google
The biggest example perhaps is how Google was able to acquire Provo, Utah's fiber to the home network for all of $1, with some locals ignored when they expressed concern the deal left the city on the hook for $39.6 million in debt for the next 12 years.

These sweetheart deals speak to the justifiable, massive demand Google Fiber is seeing, and as such, it's rather obvious that Google's going to be in the driver's seat when negotiating franchise arrangements.

However, Google's moves are setting some very interesting precedents that may not be great for communities long term. That we're all suddenly cheering for cherry picking and against consumer protections or performance metrics is a large reason for AT&T and CenturyLink's sudden interest in deploying fiber to very select, higher-end developments.

I asked Google if it might be construed that the company was punishing Overland Park for standing up for itself, though the company would only confirm that they're now focusing their attentions elsewhere.

"Building Fiber is complicated and we have very tight time windows for our construction work," Google tells DSLReports.com. "We've worked with Overland Park for a number of months now, and we need to refocus our energy and resources on engineering, designing, and building a new fiber network for the communities who are waiting for Fiber."

One can't blame Google for wanting to move on to any of the thousands of cities clamouring for ultra-fast, inexpensive fiber broadband. On the other hand, it's easily argued that cities should have the right to stand up for themselves, and the lust for $70 1 Gbps connections shouldn't overshadow all else.

That Google Fiber could have a dark side is not a particularly popular point to be sure; the majority pretty clearly simply want cities out of the way so they can get a competitive alternative to slow, pricey incumbent broadband service. Some quietly wonder, however, if there's a price to be paid down the road when or if Google tires of the Google Fiber experiment.

Locals have made it pretty clear which side of that debate they fall on; several Overland Park residents have started a Facebook page dedicated to voting out the Overland Park city council members who they feel bungled and botched the Google Fiber deal.


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