Google Fiber to pay Louisville $3.84 million in wake of market retreat

Louisville Metro Government (LMG) says that Google Fiber will pay the city $3.84 million to clean up rights-of-way after Google pulls out of the city. Google Fiber announced this past February that it would no longer provide broadband services in Louisville because the experimental fiber cable installation process it had used there had proven unreliable. It halted operations in the city April 15.

Apr 18th, 2019

Louisville Metro Government (LMG) says that Google Fiber will pay the city $3.84 million to clean up rights-of-way after Google pulls out of the city. Google Fiber announced this past February that it would no longer provide broadband services in Louisville because the experimental fiber cable installation process it had used there had proven unreliable (see “Google Fiber to cease serving Louisville this April”). It halted operations in the city April 15.

The payment is an obligation under local regulations and the franchise agreement between Louisville and Google Fiber, which call for a service provider to pay for restoration of rights-of-way should the service company decide to leave the city. Google Fiber will pay the sum over a 20-month period to restore rights-of-way in the city’s Portland, Newburg, and the Highlands communities, the only three locations where it had offered its fiber to the home (FTTH) service.

Google Fiber had experimented with an FTTH installation process that involved the digging of shallower trenches than traditional approaches would demand. The fiber cable would be deployed in theses trenches and a sealant would then be applied. The process was designed to enable more rapid fiber installation. However, in practice, the sealant did not successfully hold the cable in some areas, leading to exposed cables. Google Fiber determined the expense to rebuild or repair the network was too great to make business sense, and therefore decided to pull out of the market.

LMG says the money will be used to remove fiber cables and sealant from roads, mill and pave roads where needed, and remove Google Fiber’s above-ground infrastructure. “Infrastructure in neighborhoods and public properties affected by Google Fiber will look as good or better than they did before the company began construction, just as our franchise agreement stipulated,” promised Grace Simrall, LMG’s chief of Civic Innovation & Technology. “The city will diligently repair these roads and public spaces over the 20-month period.”

In addition to the $3.84 million payment to the city, Google Fiber also has agreed to donate $150,000 to the Community Foundation of Louisville’s Digital Inclusion Fund to further the city’s efforts to close the digital divide as well as donate 275 refurbished computers to the Louisville Metro Housing Authority. The two parties indicated that the breakup of their relationship is amicable.

“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,” commented 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.”

“Discontinuing service in Louisville was a very difficult business decision for Google Fiber, and we 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,” said Mark Strama, general manager for Google Fiber.

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