Google Cities

Google Cities

On Thursday, Mayor Greg Fischer announced that Louisville is one of three cities added to the list of cities Google Fiber is exploring to locate their super high-speed Internet capabilities.

This is the result of more than three years of Mayor Fischer, Metro Chief of Civic Innovation Ted Smith and others laying the groundwork to make Louisville a high-speed Internet/fiber-friendly city, attractive to Google and other high-speed providers.

IL sat down with Fischer and Smith to learn more about Google Fiber and what it would mean for the city:

Google’s fiber-optic connections offer Internet speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second.

Google Fiber has had its eye on Louisville for a while. We were passed over last year, but it helped that we’ve hit so many major milestones in tech lately. The fact that the city won last year’s “Get Your Venture Online” contest, sponsored by Google, also propelled our chances. The mayor has been busy making our case during his work with the Conference of Mayors, and Smith is leading a workgroup on the topic.

While Google Fiber and Louisville are in the “exploratory” phase — which can last anywhere between 11 and 18 months — they’ve been quietly working together for a while now. Part of this phase is “filling out” a 16-page checklist that Google Fiber provides, but since the city has been working on being fiber-friendly for several years, much of that work is already complete.

The mayor and Smith predict that from this point to “first client served” will be around two years.

Mayor Fischer acknowledged that people have made assumptions about which neighborhoods would be served first, but he said Google will make the final decisions. The city made it clear to Google that “access to all parts of the city” is a priority, but because of costs, denser neighborhoods would see service first.

The mayor said other service providers the city approached about the prospect of serving high-speed Internet to Louisville wanted to concentrate on the Urban Service District. Google intends to serve all of Jefferson County.

Smith predicts a mixture of above-ground and below-ground cables.

“It was lots of hard work to get to this point,” said Mayor Fischer. He pointed to this week’s tech-heavy announcements from his office — free Wi-Fi for some areas of the Russell neighborhood, the release of 49 new sets of data in the city’s Open Data Portal, and now Google Fiber — to highlight the city’s innovation “momentum.” The Metro website also recently was named the second best in the country.

The answer to many questions about the future with Google Fiber is “it’s too soon to tell.” We don’t know the price structure or exactly what kind of service Google Fiber will offer if they come to Louisville. It’s too soon to tell how many jobs will be created by the infrastructure install, or whether the engineering and design jobs that the planning phase will require will be in Louisville or elsewhere.

Mayor Fischer said Google Fiber would help create conditions where businesses can thrive. He expects it will be attractive to other companies and will help “grow a city of people who are embracing the future.

Smith mentioned that other providers will feel a “price pressure” from Google’s presence in the marketplace. “We welcome competition,” he said.

It’s worth noting that although Louisville is just in an “exploratory phase,” Google has never deemed a city ineligible once they started the process of exploring.