Google Fiber will pay city $3.84 million to restore infrastructure

A Google Fiber worker pulling up rubber sealant from a road in Deer Park in early April | Staff photo

Two months after the company announced it was pulling out of Louisville, Google Fiber has now agreed to pay the city $3.84 million to restore the roads and right-of-ways where it laid fiber cables over the past year.

Google Fiber made a big splash in 2017 with its official rollout of gigabit internet services in Louisville, but after two years of very limited installation throughout the city, it abruptly announced on Feb. 7 that it would discontinue services.

The administration of Mayor Greg Fischer announced the terms of the agreement on Monday, in which Google Fiber will make payments over the next 20 months to cover the costs of the city removing fiber cables and sealant from roads, milling and paving roads where repairs are needed and removing above-ground infrastructure.

Such repairs and restorations will take place in Portland, Newburg and the Highlands — the only areas of the city where the company installed a significant amount of infrastructure.

The city’s news release indicated that Google Fiber agreed to the $3.84 million in payments “to fulfill the company’s obligations under its franchise agreement and local regulations.” The company also will make a $150,000 payment to the Community Foundation of Louisville’s Digital Inclusion Fund, which will pay for the refurbishing of used computers for low-income families and connecting public housing residents with low-cost internet access.

Grace Simrall, the city’s chief of civic innovation, stated that the city will “diligently repair these roads and public spaces” over the next two years, while adding that Google Fiber’s mere presence pushed their competitors to boost internet services in the city.

“It’s clear that Google Fiber’s presence in Louisville led other providers to step up and increase investment in Louisville, and that was good news for consumers everywhere,” said Simrall. “Moreover, we appreciate Google Fiber’s donation to our digital inclusion work, because improving equity in access to technology and digital skills is essential for Louisville’s economy today and tomorrow.”

Since AT&T first announced in late 2016 that would provide ultra-fast internet speeds in parts of Louisville, its fiber network has expanded to “nearly 175,000 Louisville area homes and small businesses,” according to a company spokesman.

Mark Strama, the general manager for Google Fiber, also said in the press release that “discontinuing service in Louisville was a very difficult business decision” for the company, which “will forever be grateful to Mayor Fischer and his team for their commitment to the residents of Louisville and their dedication to driving internet connectivity and digital inclusion across the city.”

Google Fiber’s venture in Louisville amounted to a failed experiment to place fiber in much shallower trenches along roads, which turned out to be “disruptive to residents and caused service issues for our customers.” Referring to the company’s trialing of shallow lines in the city, they stated in February that “innovating means learning, and sometimes, unfortunately, you learn by failing.”

As they announced in February, Google Fiber will cease all services in Louisville by midnight on Monday, April 15, as they have continued providing free services to customers over the past two months.