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Portland Expected To Be Louisville's First Google Fiber Neighborhood

John Cummings/Creative Commons

One of the city’s poorest areas will be among the first to get hooked up to Google Fiber’s ultra high-speed internet service.

Next week, the company will begin installing infrastructure in portions of the Portland neighborhood between 22nd and 30th streets and Bank and Market streets, said Grace Simrall, the city’s chief innovation officer.

City officials have fought to secure a commitment from Google Fiber to bring its service to Louisville since the company expressed interest in doing so some two years ago.

Mayor Greg Fischer and city economic development officials consider Google Fiber a catalyst for growth.

It’s already proven to be a spark for competition among service providers. AT&T and Time Warner both began rolling out fiber service here shortly after Google expressed Interest in expanding to the city.

Simrall said residents in the Portland area will be able to tap into the service in the coming months.

“Not years,” she said of the timeline.

A spokesperson for Google Fiber did not immediately return a request for comment.

The area in Portland slated for the installation is among the poorest in the city, according to a recent report from the Greater Louisville Project. In fact, the report found that one U.S. Census tract within the construction zone is the 10th poorest tract among the some 3,200 tracts across Louisville and the city’s 16 peer cities.

Simrall said she’s pleased with Google Fiber’s choice to begin their installation with the Portland area. She said she often hears from residents in the area who struggle to connect to the internet because of shoddy service.

“I don’t know exactly what [Google Fiber's] deployment strategy is, but I know social responsibility is an aspect of their work,” she said of Google Fiber.

'Super Exciting'

Portland is also a neighborhood in the midst of a revitalization effort. Developers are flipping historic buildings and artists are moving in.

Gill Holland, a developer spearheading much of that effort, said it’s “super exciting” that Google Fiber will begin its installation in Portland.

Holland pointed to a recent move from local startup Interapt to establish its headquarters in Portland’s warehouse district as evidence that the neighborhood could support tech businesses.

“Google Fiber will only help leverage that,” he said.

Holland said four years ago, nearly a quarter of all structures in the area were vacant or abandoned. These days, the progress is evident through lower crime rates and less blight, he said.

“There’s a lot of eyesores and blight and dens of criminal activity that are no longer operating,” he said.

Beyond Portland, Simrall said portions of the Newburg area in central Jefferson County will also be among the first areas to be connected to Google Fiber.

It’s unclear just how many households are within the installation area, Simrall said. Google Fiber will foot the bill for the installation process, she said.

The infrastructure installed in this initial phase would be placed below ground, Simrall said, not hung from utility poles – despite an effort from local legislators to approve a controversial “one touch make ready” ordinance last year. That ordinance allows broader access to utility poles that carry lines from other service providers.

The ordinance is the subject of a federal lawsuit brought by telecommunications giant AT&T and is considered a national test case for utility providers.

WDRB reported that Louisville Metro government has spent nearly $160,000 in defense of the suit.

Simrall said because of that suit, Google Fiber must begin their installation by going below ground. But a broader expansion across the city will depend on the “one touch make ready” ordinance, she said.

“Strictly underground deployments are not feasible with the architecture of our city,” she said. “It is imperative that, not just for Google Fiber, but for all people that want to enter the market that they have the availability of one touch make ready.”

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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