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Google Fiber is getting ready to build a long-awaited network in Louisville, Kentucky despite recent layoffs at the ISP and lawsuits filed against Louisville’s local government by AT&T and Charter.
“Great news today, with Google Fiber saying they now officially are coming to Louisville. We’ve been working on this for years,” Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said Wednesday in a video. Google Fiber could use both fiber and wireless technologies to connect customers.
Fischer made a nearly identical statement in September 2015 when he said Louisville was “announced as [the] next Google Fiber city.” But there have been a few complications since then.
In February 2016, AT&T sued the local government in Louisville and Jefferson County, Kentucky to stop a new ordinance designed to give Google Fiber faster access to utility poles. Charter Communications filed a similar lawsuit against Louisville eight months later. The cases are still pending and there were no court orders to stay the ordinance, so Google Fiber can presumably take advantage of the new pole attachment policy.
But there were other problems. In October 2016, the Alphabet division that operates Google Fiber announced that it was laying off or reassigning about nine percent of its staff as well as “pausing” or ending fiber operations in 10 cities where it hadn’t yet fully committed to building. The Alphabet-owned ISP has also started using wireless networking technologies instead of fiber-to-the-home in some cities. But even on the day of the layoffs, Google Fiber said it was still committed to building fiber in Louisville.
“Google Fiber expects to soon file its first permit to building its network in Louisville,” the city government’s announcement said this week. “The network construction will be done in phases, which will allow a more efficient build and reduce disruption. Google Fiber’s initial buildout will focus on a handful of communities and neighborhoods.”
The announcement didn’t mention the status of utility poles, but it said Google Fiber will “test innovative” deployment methods including microtrenching, a faster-than-usual method of installing fiber underground. “Google Fiber is also working on advancing wireless capabilities that would connect communities even faster,” Louisville said, an apparent reference to Google Fiber’s recent purchase of Webpass, a high-speed wireless ISP that focuses mostly on multi-unit residential buildings and commercial buildings.
It’s not clear just how extensive the Louisville deployment will be. “Ashley Kroh, a Google Fiber official working on the Louisville effort, said Wednesday that it’s too early to say if the network will eventually be extended outside the boundaries of Jefferson County,” the Courier-Journal reported. “The initial effort, she said, will focus on reaching residences in some yet-to-be-disclosed parts of Metro Louisville.”
We asked Google Fiber for further details today and will provide an update if we get one.
Nationwide, Google Fiber’s fiber service is available in nine metro areas, while the company’s wireless Webpass service is in seven metro areas.
Disclosure: The Advance/Newhouse Partnership, which owns about 13 percent of Charter, is part of Advance Publications. Advance Publications owns Condé Nast, which owns Ars Technica.