Portland welcomes Google Fiber, but will Google accept?

The Portland city council last week voted to approve Google Fiber, Google's high-speed Internet service it plans to roll out in 34 cities across the nation. 

By , Staff Writer

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    Chanute Mayor Greg Woodyard stands on a brick mosaic of the Google Earth logo at the intersection of Lincoln and Main streets, in Chanute, Kan., May 21, 2014. Encircling and crisscrossing this town of 9,100 people is more than 30 miles of some of the fastest Internet fiber cable in the nation. The system has already brought state-of-the-art broadband speeds to government buildings, the town library, the community college, the hospital, and some local businesses. Every park and green space and most of the outdoor areas downtown are covered by free Wi-Fi.
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Google Fiber may soon be coming to Portland, Ore.  

As part of Google's plan to bring high-speed Internet to 34 cities across the United States, the Portland city council last week voted to approve Google's service to the city after a preliminary deal had been reached in April.  

Should Google decide to proceed with building the network, the city estimates the network will cost the company at least $300 million to build. Google will provide an update by the end of the year on which cities will be receiving Fiber, according to Google Fiber spokeswoman Jenna Wandres. 

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If Google does follow through on this agreement, however, it will pay a 5 percent "franchise fee" on its video revenues, according to The Oregonian. Conversely, Google will not pay the 3 percent public, educational, and government access tax (or "PEG fee") the city charges to broadband providers such as Comcast. While Google will not be required to serve all parts of the city, it will provide free Internet to individual users after a one-time $300 fee and free Internet to various nonprofits around the city. 

Additionally, Portland and Oregon "will participate in a 'joint defense' of the franchise if it faces a legal challenge over allegations it gave Google Fiber preferential treatment, exceeded the city's authority, or violates the law in some way," according to The Oregonian. 

Moreover, Google still has to reach agreements with the city on the 200 utility cabinets it wants to install – which have already faced obstacles in Kansas City, a previous Google Fiber hub – in addition to licensing agreements with Portland utility pole owners. 

Fiber reportedly runs 100 times faster than basic broadband connections, which use often copper cables as opposed to fiber-optic ones. Kansas City was the first city to receive Google Fiber. Since then, Fiber has also been moving into Provo, Utah and Austin, Texas. 

But Google's foray into fiber hasn't come without its share of hiccups along the way. For example, in Kansas City, although Google selected that city for Fiber in March 2011, homes did not begin high-speed connections until November of the following year. 

"It's a very physical process," said former Kansas City mayor Joe Reardon to the San Jose Mercury News in February. "In order for it to be delivered to us, it means that fiber has to be laid on the ground in the city on rights-of-way or on poles, and you have to get it into the neighborhoods and into the house. It takes time." 

"It does take time," added Google Fiber spokeswoman Jenna Wandres. "It's probably one of the biggest infrastructure projects these cities have ever seen."

Google's efforts are also indicative of the desire among many people for faster Internet speeds. In the United States, only 7 percent of broadband subscribers use fiber connections, as opposed to as many as 30 percent in Sweden and as many as 60 percent in countries like South Korea and Japan. 

[Editor's note: The original version of this story misstated the progress of Portland's Google Fiber plan. The city's government has approved a roll out of fiber optic connections throughout the city, but Google has not yet agreed to such a plan.]

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