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Google Fiber Exploring Expansion To Louisville

Google Fiber

Louisville is on the fast track to ultra-fast Internet.

Google Fiber announced Thursday afternoon that it has invited Louisville to work with the technology giant to explore bringing the sought-after service in the city.

San Diego and Irvine, Calif., have also been invited.

The installation of Google Fiber would bring Internet connection up to 100 times faster than what is currently offered in Louisville, said Ted Smith, the city's chief of innovation.

Louisville officials were planning a news conference at 1:30 p.m. to address a "potential technology development."

Google Fiber is only available in a handful of cities. Until now, Louisville had each time missed the cut. Thursday's announcement puts Louisville among a dozen U.S. cities that have or are set to get what's simply known as super-fast Internet.

"The cities that have Google Fiber are very fortunate places," Smith said.

For starters, fiber connectivity gives residents and businesses access to the fastest internet speeds available. Smith said Louisville Internet users are working with download speeds up to 10 megabits per second. Upload speeds are slightly slower, he said.

With Google Fiber, users can download and upload information at 1,000 megabits per second, Smith said. That's about three times faster than the fastest Internet package from AT&T's U-Verse, he said.

"It's a pretty big upgrade," he added.

And the cost for the ultra-high speed Internet is expected to be considerably lower than what users are currently paying, he said.

"That is what has happened in other markets," Smith said.

That means the bill for someone with a high-speed Internet and television package in Louisville may be reduced by as much as half, Smith said.

"When Google enters cities, their interest is to get people using the Internet. They're not trying to make it hard for people to use the Internet; they're trying to make it easier for you to use the Internet," he said.

And for a city's economic growth, Google Fiber is key.

Smith said startup companies look for cities with gigabit connectivity. He said there's no data yet to show that cities with ultra-fast Internet are gaining businesses, but the anecdotal evidence is clear.

It's not unusual for Smith to get feedback every week about people or businesses who've left Louisville for Kansas City — a city with Google Fiber — or Cincinnati, a city with higher Internet speeds.

Cities are beginning to compete against each other regarding who has the fastest Internet, Smith said.

"Whether it's for business use or what we have available for startup, dorm room entrepreneurs, we will all be competing on this over time, for sure," he said.

Some of Louisville's "peer cities," like Nashville and Charlotte, are already working on getting Google Fiber installed.

Smith said Fiber would require a tremendous private investment from Google.

Louisville in recent years has committed to working on being a fiber-friendly city, like expediting permitting processes, developing a clear broadband plan and making rights-of-ways available for infrastructure installation, Smith said.

These steps, he said, are essential and relevant for people and companies looking to make large investments in the city, he said.

But, despite the announcement and the work to get a commitment from Google to install the gigabit fiber connectivity in Louisville, residents and businesses shouldn't expect the ultra-fast Internet to be immediately made available, Smith stressed.

He said there is no definitive timeline for when Google Fiber would potentially be up and running. Installation time varies from city to city and can take up to a "couple of years" before a large group of residents have access, he said.

Physical infrastructure would be placed above ground via existing telephone poles, as well as below ground, he said.

But Smith said it would be worth the wait.

"There's nobody that imagines we're going to need a slower Internet in the future," he said.

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.

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