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VOL. 38 | NO. 8 | Friday, February 21, 2014

Nashville no 'shoo-in' for high-speed Google Fiber

By Hollie Deese

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When it comes to the Internet, faster is better. And it’s possible that next year those annoying spinning wheels, stalled video streams and slow-to-load websites could be a thing of the past.

Google announced Wednesday that Nashville is on a short list of cities they are evaluating for expansion of their Google Fiber network, which gives Internet users a speed of one gigabit per second, up to 100 times faster than existing broadband services.

Current Google Fiber cities are Provo, Kansas City, and Austin. Nashville joins 33 other potential Google Fiber cities, including metro Portland, Salt Lake City, San Jose, Phoenix, San Antonio, Atlanta, Charlotte, and Raleigh-Durham.

“The announcement is great but Nashville is only being considered – we're not a shoo-in yet,” says Alex Curtis of the Creators’ Freedom Project. “Not only is existing infrastructure going to be a big consideration but so is support. Mainly from our municipal government, the tech community, and our citizens. This is going to be a tremendous effort to make this happen, and I'm very excited about the possibilities.”

Google says they will make the announcement of which cities will be chosen by the end of 2014, and not everyone is guaranteed to be chosen. First, Google has to work with city leaders to evaluate if it is even possible.

Google is asking all potential cities to not only provide them with information that can speed up planning and construction, which includes maps of poles, conduit lines and existing water, gas, and electricity lines, but Google also is asking Nashville to streamline the permitting procedures and give them access to local infrastructure to make it easier for speedy construction.

In return, Google will evaluate cost and timeline for building the fiber-optic network in town with a detailed study that could affect construction plans, including Music City’s topography, flood zones, housing density and local infrastructure condition.

And Nashville is on board to make it happen.

“We are pleased that Nashville is on a short list of cities that Google will be evaluating for its ultra-high speed Google Fiber broadband network. Nashville is a fast-growing, vibrant city, and this announcement speaks to our momentum as a city of the future,” Mayor Karl Dean said in a statement after the announcement.

“Google is still in the early stages of looking at our city’s infrastructure, and we look forward to working with the company as they explore the possibility of bringing Google Fiber to Nashville.”

Prices for the Google Fiber, which launched in 2010, would be comparable to what most local households already pay for broadband access, about $70 for Internet and $120 for Internet and television.

“As the state broadband initiative, Connected Tennessee applauds all efforts to expand and improve high-speed Internet services in our state,” said Corey Johns, executive director if Connected Tennessee, which works to increase broadband use across the state.

“Tennessee was home to North America’s 1st Gigabit fiber network, and today’s announcement of plans to bring Google Fiber to Nashville only affirms our position as a leader for innovation enabled by robust connectivity. Ultra-high-speed broadband networks like Google Fiber can serve as a backbone for continued economic competitiveness, improved educational opportunities, access to higher-quality healthcare and more.”

If Google does come to Nashville, Johns stresses the importance of making sure people not only have access but know how to use it.

“It is important to recognize, however, that many (32 percent) of our fellow Tennesseans remain on the wrong side of the digital divide, primarily due to barriers other than access (leading barriers to broadband adoption include cost, the lack of digital skills and the lack of perceived benefits of broadband),” he says.

“To fully leverage network investments by Google or our existing service providers, we must focus on cultivating a tech-savvy workforce through increased technology integration in our schools, by addressing the digital skills shortcomings of our unemployed and underemployed adults and through efforts like the Nashville Technology Council’s ‘T3’ and ‘Work IT’ initiatives.

“Connected Tennessee looks forward to working with state and local leaders, public and private partners, existing technology providers and Google Fiber to continue advancing the technology landscape in Nashville and across Tennessee.”