Google Fiber joins AT&T, Comcast in Huntsville, Ala.'s 1 Gbps party

Google Fiber (NASDAQ: GOOG) is set to become the latest service provider to heed Huntsville, Ala.'s call to bring gigabit services throughout the city by leveraging the city utility's soon-to-be-built fiber network.

Set to go live in mid-2017, Google Fiber will provide its 1 Gbps service to residents and small- to medium-sized businesses with plans to cover the entire city within four years. However, it has not revealed pricing for the service yet. 

In 2015, Huntsville began looking for ways to entice broadband providers like Google Fiber to come to its city by issuing a request for information (RFI).

Under the terms of a proposed agreement, local utility company Huntsville Utilities, which will own the planned dark fiber network, will lease it to Google Fiber, which in turn will connect customers to a FTTH Internet service.

The Huntsville Utilities board of directors will vote on the lease agreement with Google Fiber at their meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 23.

Huntsville Utilities said it expects to spend between $55 and $60 million on building out the fiber network, but will recoup costs by leasing network access to Google Fiber and other service providers in an open access arrangement.

Christopher Mitchell, the director of the Community Broadband Networks initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, said Google Fiber's pending agreement with the city is something others could follow.

"Now, cities can ensure everyone has access to the fiber and let ISPs compete over it, much as cities build roads and businesses use them to compete," Mitchell said in a statement. "Think of this like a shopping mall with an anchor tenant. This provides legitimacy for the model, will help cities secure financing, and entice other city leaders to follow Huntsville's lead."

Google isn't the only provider that responded to Huntsville's call for fiber-based gigabit services. AT&T (NYSE: T), Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) and competitive dark fiber provider Southern Light have also pledged to bring fiber-based services to parts of the city.

AT&T cited Huntsville as one of the 38 cities where it plans to build its 1 Gbps FTTH service next. Not to be outdone, Comcast Business announced it was building out a fiber network that would be able to deliver up to 10 Gbps speeds to local businesses in Huntsville.

Meanwhile, Southern Light began building fiber to serve businesses in Cummings Research Park. The project is a good fit for Southern Light as it's a local provider that has been building out fiber networks to serve other customers, particularly wireless operators.

Under a 20-year contract it recently won from an unnamed wireless operator, Southern Light will install over 1,650 route miles and 14,000 fiber miles to connect 446 tower sites in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. While it already has a sizeable fiber network in these states, the service provider said it will be building approximately 790 fiber miles over the next four years in order to fulfill the recent contract.

For more:
- see this release
- Fortune has this article

Related articles:
Southern Light to build 1,650 mile dark fiber network
AT&T to light 38 new metro markets with 1 Gig service