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Mayor: City Hits First Google Fiber Milestone, Making Progress on Connectivity

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and his innovation team continue working to bring ultra high-speed Internet connectivity to the city.

At an Open Coffee event Monday morning, Fischer announced that Metro government has completed the Google Fiber city checklist, an early milestone in the process.

The checklist pertains to the more formal needs of high-speed Internet developments. It asks cities for information on existing infrastructure and ensuring access to that infrastructure. The checklist also acts as a quasi-pledge that any permitting or construction issues won't stand in the way of installation.

Fischer said Louisville returned the checklist faster than any other city that has been targeted for the sought-after service.

"That's an indication of both our professionalism and our interest in moving forward," he said.

Ted Smith, the city's chief innovation officer, said Metro officials are now working through the weeds of helping Google Fiber "understand the lay of the land" of doing business in Louisville.

"Just helping this company understand what it's like to build in different parts of our community — that's it — and there are a lot of very specific questions about different parts of our community that they just need help understanding," Smith said.

Fischer said his team is working to answer those questions as quickly as possible. He also reiterated his pitch that bringing Google Fiber to Louisville has numerous benefits.

For starters, it can yield Internet speeds up to 100 times faster than what's currently available. It's also likely to be cheaper than what many residents currently pay for high-speed service.

Fiber connectivity also can help attract more employers, especially in the tech industry, Fischer said. And it can demonstrate to entrepreneurs and workers alike that Louisville is embracing innovation, he said.

On another level, it can also be a catalyst for more competition, which can mean more service options and lower prices for consumers. Fischer said evidence from other cities that have already installed Google Fiber is that existing service carriers, in an effort to avoid becoming obsolete, begin to offer higher-speed Internet at lower costs.

"We're just trying to have a more competitive network for both cost and speed," he said. "It's happened in other markets."

Smith said to expect the process to take about two years. He stressed this isn't like flipping a switch. It means stringing miles of fiber cabling across the entire county. Just how that will be done is yet to be decided. Smith said the cables would be installed both below ground and along utility poles — many of which are already full.

"Some strategy work needs to done by our utilities to figure out how to maximize pole space," he said.

Smith also said the East Market Street area will likely be first to have fiber-ready conduit, or "dark fiber," installed. But he emphasized that doesn't mean the East Market corridor will be the first to hook up fiber connectivity. Google Fiber representatives have said they want to ensure residents across the county have access to the service.

"It's a business decision when markets are served, it's not based on where the fiber is," Smith said. "It's based on when they want to invest in developing the market."

Smith encouraged all residents who want Google Fiber to hound their elected representatives on the local and state levels.

Google has never backed away from a city once they've began a formal partnership for Fiber, Fischer stressed. Ashley Kroh, a spokeswoman for Fiber's Southeast region, backed that up in September, when the partnership was announced.

"Every city that we've made an announcement that we're coming, we are beginning construction or serving residents," she 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.