Installation of Google Fiber is expected to start this spring and continue at a rapid pace in Cary, where town staff is making adjustments to meet the company’s needs, according to a staff report released Thursday.
The Cary Town Council is expected Thursday, Feb. 26, to consider budgeting $282,900 to prepare its transportation, public works and water resources departments for an “extremely fast pace” of Google Fiber permitting and construction, the report says.
The town could spend as much as $1 million through 2017, the town staff reports, though the staff added that projected expenses are unclear at this time.
Google Fiber announced last month that Cary is one of seven municipalities in the Triangle, including Raleigh, Durham, Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Garner and Morrisville, where the company plans to lay its fiber-optic cable and bring high-speed Internet.
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A Google spokeswoman declined Wednesday to say how soon construction will begin or which areas will come online first.
“We’re working closely with each local city government to figure out the most efficient way to build Google Fiber in their area,” according to her statement. “As a part of this process, we’re doing preliminary design work and filing permits. We still have a lot of work ahead before we have a final construction plan and schedule for the Triangle.”
But Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht said he believes Google will start installation in Cary first. The level of activity with Cary town staff could support that.
Cary staff members have met with Google representatives at least once a week, according to the staff report, while Morrisville staff are meeting every other week. Officials in some other Triangle cities, such as Raleigh and Durham, said they’re meeting with Google representatives every two weeks or so, or haven’t met with Google since the announcement.
Raleigh and Durham also haven’t budgeted any money to accommodate the installation of new fiber, officials from those cities said.
“We meet every couple of weeks or so,” said Michael Basham, Raleigh’s broadband manager. Google is “just working on design as far as I know.”
Chapel Hill officials so far have let Google take the lead on the project, meeting with them or talking by phone when there are questions. That can be as often as once a week or every month or two, said town spokeswoman Catherine Lazorko.
Most towns reported a rollout timeline hasn’t been set.
The Cary staff report reveals a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to implement the fiber service, which offers speeds about 100 times faster than a typical broadband connection.
Miles of fiber
The town estimates there will be 600 miles of fiber throughout the town, starting with 63 miles this spring, according to the report. Cary staff members say there are several unknowns regarding the project, but the town will need to be ready to process dozens of permit requests, locate specific utility lines within three days, conduct dozens of inspections and answer residents’ questions about the ongoing construction.
“Google has indicated that they expect to submit approximately 50 miles of permit requests per week, which is over 200 times the current mileage of permit requests per week that we receive on an average basis,” according to the staff report.
The town is not staffed to handle the significant workload, the staff report says, and has identified the need for consultant services to assist. All but $11,000 of the funds will go toward an undetermined number of independent contractors, said Mike Bajorek, deputy Cary town manager, in an email.
Google now operates its fiber service in only three other markets nationally, and Cary town staff reached out to some of the cities with questions about the construction process.
Cary officials learned, for example, that an assistant manager for Kansas City, Missouri, spent nearly half of his workday for more than a year helping coordinate the Google Fiber project and dealing with complaints from residents, according to the Cary staff report.
Yards, irrigation systems and utility service pipes are sometimes damaged in the construction process.
Google has a process in place to handle customer complaints, and other cities reported that the company is generally responsive, according to the report. Nonetheless, Cary staff is requesting $26,000 to hire a customer service contractor or add staff to its public works customer service center.
The extra help is expected to aid Google’s efforts, but the town may need to spend additional money at some point to accommodate AT&T.
Cary is part of an alliance known as the N.C. Next Generation Network – which also includes Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Durham, Raleigh and Winston-Salem and four major universities – that came to an agreement with AT&T last year to bring the company’s GigaPower fiber network to the area. It could later expand to Apex, Garner and Morrisville.
AT&T has requested several encroachment permits from the town, and those requests have been increasing in volume, Bajorek said in an email.
“However, they have not reached out to the Town to discuss overall plans and schedules so it is difficult to predict resource implications for their work at this time,” he wrote.
Andrew Kenney, Tammy Grubb, Will Doran and Jim Wise contributed to this report.