Connecting state and local government leaders

A New Google Fiber Model Will Take Shape in Huntsville

Huntsville, Alabama

Huntsville, Alabama Rob Hainer / Shutterstock.com

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

Instead of building a new network from scratch, a different approach will be used in the northern Alabama city.

When it comes to Google Fiber’s expansion in select U.S. cities, there’s always a lot of eager anticipation by civic cheerleaders who dream of the future economic development that will be able to piggy-back on the super-fast gigabit network.

In Huntsville, Alabama, the Google Fiber piggy-back ride is changing a bit. Instead of Google building out a new fiber backbone, it will instead utilize a high-speed broadband network that will be built by the Rocket City’s municipal utility.

The vast majority of Google Fiber’s city networks to date have been or are being built from scratch, and while taking a different approach isn’t necessarily new territory for Google Fiber—its Provo, Utah, network was bought from the city and in Atlanta, existing fiber is being used for some apartment buildings—the expansion into Huntsville is different.

"It's a unique model," Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said, according to AL.com. "This may be the model for mid-tier cities to put in a [fiber] backbone and have private industry work off that backbone."

Huntsville Utilities, which provides electricity, water and gas services in Hunstville and Madison County, has wanted to build a fiber network to support smart grid communications.

Google Fiber’s dark fiber lease in Huntsville will run for 20 years and Huntsville Utilities, according to its announcement, anticipates that initial service will roll out in summer 2017 with a completed network being developed on a three-and-a-half year timetable.

The Huntsville arrangement is not exclusive to Google Fiber. Competing Internet providers would be able to utilize the network through their own agreements with the utility.

According to this week’s Google Fiber announcement, Huntsville is primed and ready:

Few places are better positioned than Huntsville to show what’s possible with top Internet speeds. The Rocket City boasts the highest concentration of engineers in the country, and ranks among the best places in the country for STEM workers. Ultrafast Internet will help enable Huntsville to remain at the forefront of science and tech.

The utility’s upfront investment for the fiber network will be approximately $55-60 million, according to AL.com, but Google Fiber’s lease is expected to recapture those costs.

Watch this week’s announcement:

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive's Route Fifty.

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