Google Fiber targets 34 more cities as potential FTTH recipients

Google Fiber (Nasdaq: GOOG) plans to explore the idea of bringing its 1 Gbps fiber to the home (FTTH) service to an additional 34 cities across 9 U.S. metro areas, a move the provider decided to make in the wake of the experience it gained through deployments in Kansas City, Austin and Provo.

Google fiber map

Google Fiber's proposed expansion areas. View a larger version here. (Source: Google)

"We've long believed that the Internet's next chapter will be built on gigabit speeds, so it's fantastic to see this momentum," wrote Milo Medin, VP for Google Access Services, in a blog post. "And now that we've learned a lot from our Google Fiber projects in Kansas City, Austin and Provo, we want to help build more ultra-fast networks. So we've invited cities in nine metro areas around the U.S.--34 cities altogether--to work with us to explore what it would take to bring them Google Fiber."

The service provider cautioned that it might not be able to bring the FTTH service to all of these cities.

A number of the cities, such as San Antonio, applied to become Google Fiber cities when the Internet search giant first launched its program in 2010.

Julian Castro, mayor of San Antonio, welcomed the idea of Google coming to his city because it would provide more choice for consumers.

"One of the things we noticed around the country is that competition is good in these local markets and as providers have to compete they lower their rates on traditional Internet speeds and also improve their service for consumers," Castro said on a media conference call with Google Fiber on Wednesday.

Similar to its initial builds, the service provider will conduct a detailed study of three local issues that could affect construction in each city: topography, shared infrastructure (i.e., existing utility poles and cabling conduit), and the permitting process.

Since Google plans to build a brand new network, the service provider would like to use as much of the existing infrastructure--put in place by area telcos and utility companies over the past century--as possible.

Getting access to telephone poles proved to be a key issue in Austin. AT&T (NYSE: T), which owns 20 percent of the poles in that city, said in December that it doesn't have to provide pole attachment access to Google Fiber. The city council, which owns the remaining 80 percent, drafted an ordinance to force AT&T to open up the poles.

At that time, Google said it would pay AT&T for access to its poles at "reasonable rates" like it did in Kansas City.

AT&T's protest comes as the telco is moving ahead with its own FTTH plans for Austin, which was revealed the same day Google Fiber said it would come to the city. Google Fiber expects to light up Austin in mid-2014. 

By using a joint planning process, Google Fiber said it will be able to avoid such issues in new cities where it builds out service. This process will also cause less disruption to residents and businesses.

"We want to minimize digging up streets so we'll work with the city to see how much of our network we can string along utility poles or run through existing conduit," said Kevin Lo, general manager of Google Fiber.

In tandem with getting access to existing infrastructure, Lo added that they want to accelerate the build out process by streamlining the permitting process for network construction and gaining access to necessary rights of way (ROW).

"When we do get going, we want to move fast and on a predictable schedule so if we work with the city up front to handle 100 times the usual amount of permit requests they won't get annoyed with us later," Lo said.

Despite being an ambitious target for the service, one of notable omissions from its list is the Northeast. Lo did not give any specific reason why it was not yet a target.

"Building these networks is a really hard job and we have a lot of work to do in this direct planning process so we're looking forward to that," Lo said. "We can't build everywhere at once so we're starting with these 34 cities and we're looking to get going right away."  

Today, Google Fiber offers two options in Kansas City: a 1 Gbps Internet service for $70 a month, or an Internet and TV bundle for $120 a month. It also offers a free 5 Mbps service, which requires a one-time $300 construction fee. Users who choose the 1 Gbps service don't have to pay the construction fee.

While it offers the same prices in the Provo market, it only charges $30 a month for the construction fee since its purchase of the existing iProvo FTTH network.

Google Fiber is not alone in its 1 Gbps FTTH desires. Besides AT&T and CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL), a growing host of municipalities and competitive providers like C Spire have begun rolling out their own 1 Gbps FTTH service in specific communities.

C Spire announced this week that homeowner pre-registration in three Mississippi cities exceeded required thresholds.  

For more:
- see Google's blog post
- here's FierceCable's take

Related articles:
Google Fiber brings AT&T, CenturyLink to the FTTH table - Year in Review 2013
Google Fiber to buy iProvo network, upgrade Utah city to 1 Gbps
Google Fiber comes to Austin, mayor announces