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Google Fiber ponders moving into Tigard

City on list for ultra-high-speed Internet and cable service


Google Fiber has named nine metro areas across the nation to possibly bring ulta-highspeed Internet by 2015.Google Fiber could be coming to Tigard.

Search engine giant Google made the announcement last week that Tigard — along with Portland, Beaverton, Lake Oswego, Hillsboro and Gresham — was on a list of cities across the country being considered for the company’s ultra-high-speed internet.

Just what is Google Fiber? It’s hundreds of HD TV channels and lightning-fast Internet that runs about 100-times faster than the broadband most homes use now.

That’s fast enough to download an entire film in less than a minute, and a music album in only a few seconds.

The Feb. 20 announcement paves the way for a year-long planning process with the cities to determine how, and if, the service will come to Portland-area homes.

The six cities met with Google on Tuesday to learn more about the scoping, engineering and planning that the fiber-optic network will need, according to Lloyd Purdy, Tigard’s economic development manager.

“This was a chance for cities to find out what the expectations are and how we might process the work for pulling permits and gaining access to right of way,” said Tigard City Manager Marty Wine.

The cities are not required to put any money into the effort. Instead, they must convince Google that the existing infrastructure can support fiber optics to virtually every home and school, and that the cities can quickly issue the large number of permits needed to complete the project.

“There is a whole infrastructure that comes with Google Fiber,” said Wine. “They said, ‘Here’s what Google would like and expect from cities when it comes to permitting and everything else.’ We heard what they are asking and will say what we can provide.”

‘Here’s what you’re up against’

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Darcy Nothnagle, Googles western regional public affairs and government relations director, stands in front of Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and other regional leaders. Portland is on a shortlist of cities that could see super fast Internet by next year.It’s far from a done deal, Purdy said.

Google plans to look into local factors that might affect construction plans.

“They have not yet decided if they can come here,” Purdy said. “It will take a couple of months for us to say, ‘Here’s what you’re up against,’ and then they can begin the engineering and the planning phase.”

And there are plenty of other cities also in the running. Portland joins Raleigh, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Jose, Nashville, Phoenix, Charlotte and Atlanta as possible expansion cities.

Purdy said Google was gathering information about each of the cities.

Installing the fiber-optic service could require digging up roads or building new power poles.

Google hopes to get easements, right-of-way agreements and expedited permits from cities in order to install the fiber-optic cables.

It also plans to map out the fiber-optic network and inventory available utility poles.

If all goes well, service could be up and running as early as next year.

Wine said one of the biggest hurdles will be Google’s competition.

“There are going to be inevitable questions about competitors, the people who are already providing cable and video services,” Wine said.

In other cities, competitors have fought to slow or stop the spread of ultrafast-Internet.

In Kansas, where Google Fiber began, the state legislature introduced a bill that would have outlawed cities from selling cable and Internet services, or partnering with private providers like Google in the future.

In Austin, where Google Fiber is preparing to launch, AT&T slowed deployment by denying the company access to utility poles it owns along streets.

Google has since reached an agreement with AT&T, and the Kansas law appears to have died in committee.

Tigard and the Portland area have several non-exclusive franchise agreements with utility companies to provide services, including CenturyLink and Comcast, but Wine said cities will need to make sure Google isn’t treated differently than any other utility.

“When I put my regulator hat on, I think that all of these jurisdictions will have to be very careful about competitive equity,” she said.

Cheaper than cable?

Google made headlines in 2011 when it held a competitive bid between cities to see where Google Fiber would first set up shop.

Portland fought hard, even crafting a beer in the company’s honor, but the prize ultimately went to Kansas City, Kan.

The idea of the Portland-area getting a second chance has already excited many people in town, Wine said.

“We have already gotten emails saying, ‘Don’t miss this opportunity,’” Wine said. “’We had a chance at it once, let’s not pass it up again.”

If Google Fiber does come to Tigard, it could prove to not only be fast, but affordable.

In Kansas, the service cost $70 per month for Internet, and $120 for Internet and cable.

It also offers a slower, but free, service — though it charges a $300 installation fee — that gives access to free Internet for seven years.

“If you have someone who, for a few hundred dollars, can have access to the Internet for seven years, that’s great,” Wine said.

Kevin Lo, general manager of Google Fiber, said the service could have real implications for the area.

“Communities with abundant high-speed Internet grow stronger because there’s greater potential to create jobs, drive economic growth, and help students and families get access to essential resources,” he said.

Purdy agreed.

“This brings the idea of an interconnected city to a whole new level,” he said.

Google plans to announce which cities will get Google Fiber by the end of this year.

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