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Norton Commons Lined Up For Fiber Internet

Steve Freeman claims his neighborhood has it all — doctors, dog groomers and restaurants.

He lives in Norton Commons, a neighborhood in far eastern Jefferson County built on the premise of "new urbanism," which refers to walkable, amenity-rich communities.

The only thing it lacks is ultra high-speed internet. And that's about to change.

By the end of the year, nearly everyone living in the 600-acre development will be connected to gigabit internet, said Joe Burgan, spokesman for AT&T Kentucky.

Burgan said AT&T is in the midst of laying fiber lines in Norton Commons and a handful of other areas in Jefferson County. The neighborhood is setting up to be the most visible fiber internet expansion in Louisville to date, he said.

Fiber connectivity is a hot topic in Louisville. The service is expected to be up to 100 times faster and significantly cheaper than what's currently available to residents.

The fiber frenzy unofficially began in September, when Google Fiber announced it would begin examining the feasibility of bringing the service to the city.

That announcement sparked a storm of interest from city leaders, techies and other utility providers, like AT&T and Time Warner — both of which followed Google Fiber's announcement with their own news they'd soon begin offering fiber connectivity in Louisville.

Burgan said AT&T is "not following Google Fiber's footprint."

The tension between AT&T and Google Fiber is garnering national attention. Earlier this year, AT&T filed a federal lawsuit against Metro government after city council members approved an ordinance streamlining the installation process for fiber internet providers.

Burgan said AT&T wants competition, whether it be from Google Fiber or other service providers. "It's good for the city, it's good for the company," he said.

And just because AT&T is first out of the gate in Norton Commons doesn't exclude Google Fiber or any other gigabit internet provider from offering service to residents, said Marilyn Osborn Patterson, spokeswoman for Norton Commons.

"Competition is great for our residents and our business owners," she said. "If Google Fiber wants to come in here and do the same thing, we are all for it."

As the tangible advancements of fiber internet progress, the answer to the longstanding question of who will get the service first seems to be slowly unfurling.

For AT&T, Norton Commons presents the ideal installation site, Burgan said. The neighborhood is in various stages of development, and when fiber lines can be installed at the outset of home and street construction, it becomes much easier to hook up residences to the service when homeowners move in.

There's also a strong customer base. Norton Commons boasts about 1,000 residences and more than 60 businesses, Patterson said.

And for people who have both a home and a business in the neighborhood, like Steve Freeman, getting gigabit internet in to Norton Commons seems like a no-brainer.

"This community is on the edge of something that's just so unique," he said. "I think, certainly, Norton Commons, being on the edge of it, should have the opportunity to be first."

Freeman is a certified public accountant and operates a small office a few blocks from his home. He files taxes for hundreds of individuals and handles payroll and other accounting needs for dozens of businesses.

The four computer monitors crowding his desk are proof Freeman depends heavily on connectivity to run his small business. And faster speeds mean more efficiency.

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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