Google identified nine metro areas — including Portland, Ore. — that it will begin working with “to explore what it would take to bring them Google Fiber.” By the end of 2014, the search giant said it will have a better idea of where exactly it wants to provide the super-fast Internet.
“Between now and then, we’ll work closely with each city’s leaders on a joint planning process that will not only map out a Google Fiber network in detail, but also assess what unique local challenges we might face,” Google wrote today. “These are such big jobs that advance planning goes a long way toward helping us stick to schedules and minimize disruption for residents.”
We reached out to Google and asked about Seattle. A company spokesperson did not provide any specific reasons and shared this statement with us:
Building a brand fiber network takes many months of planning and construction, so we need to concentrate our efforts on just a few areas for now. These metro areas, spread all across the U.S., presumably will represent a wide variety of different construction environments and challenges, and we’re looking forward to learning from our experiences and partners in each area.
So, unfortunately for Seattleties, Seattle doesn’t appear to be a location on Google’s radar for implementation of Google Fiber, which is currently available in Kansas City, Provo, and soon in Austin.
As far as our brothers to the south in Portland, Mike Rogoway from The Oregonian notes that Google is apparently a fan of the city’s broadband plan.
Google says it liked the city’s broadband plan, crafted in 2011, which outlines an incremental approach to extending broadband reach throughout the city and including underserved populations. It’s notable that communities Google is considering – including Hillsboro, Beaverton and – have high concentrations of technical workers employed at Intel and other high-tech companies.
Former Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn actually tried convincing Google to bring its fiber Internet into his city back in 2010, but ultimately the Emerald City was not picked.
A few years later, McGinn made another effort to bring faster Internet to Seattle and take advantage of unused capacity in the city’s 500 miles of fiber-optic cabling. He signed a deal with a private company called Gigabit Squared and plans were in place to offer fiber Internet to 14 neighborhoods this year.
Now Seattle is back to square one. We met with new Mayor Ed Murray in his City Hall office last week and after the Gigabit Squared debacle, he expressed interest in the possibility of a publicly-funded Internet utility — one that could mimic a model of how citizens access city light, for example.
However, he’s worried that the city couldn’t afford something on that scale. It’s a project that McGinn pegged at $600 or $700 million.
Still, bringing faster Internet to citizens is a priority for Murray.
“This is definitely something we need to do,” he said last week. “There’s an economic development component to this. There’s an education component to this. There’s a social justice component to this. The challenge is, how do we make it pay for itself?”
Seattle does have a franchise agreement with Comcast that expires January 20, 2016, and perhaps that’s something Google took note of. The city has already begun reviewing its relationship with Comcast and will soon reach out to the public for input.
“While the City does not have the power to prevent Comcast’s $45 billion purchase of Time Warner, we can take steps to make sure competition is stronger in Seattle,” Murray wrote in a blog post last week. “One step will be to evaluate our City’s relationship with Comcast.”