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Google to begin construction of Triangle fiber-optic network

Gov. Pat McCrory, left, shakes hands with Michael Slinger, Google's director of fiber business operations, during a press conference announcing plans to host gigabit broadband in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Morrisville, Cary, Carrboro and Garner during a press conference Tuesday, January 27, 2015 at the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh.
Gov. Pat McCrory, left, shakes hands with Michael Slinger, Google's director of fiber business operations, during a press conference announcing plans to host gigabit broadband in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Morrisville, Cary, Carrboro and Garner during a press conference Tuesday, January 27, 2015 at the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh. tlong@newsobserver.com

After several months spent designing a new fiber-optic network that will cover much of the Triangle, Google is set to begin construction.

“Now that the design is complete we’re ready to start building,” J. Erik Garr, head of Google Fiber’s operations in the Triangle, said this week. “We still have a lot of work to do but this brings us one step closer to sign-ups.”

Google’s network will cover seven local municipalities: Carrboro, Cary, Chapel Hill, Durham, Garner, Morrisville and Raleigh.

Construction crews plan to lay more than 5,700 miles of fiber-optic cable and install 26 “fiber huts” that will allow connections between smaller areas and the broader network. Fiber will be attached to roughly 50,000 telephone poles.

“The scale of this build is pretty large,” Garr said.

Google’s prime contractor on the project is Bechtel, the construction and civil engineering giant.

Garr said it’s still too early to say when Triangle households will be able to sign up for the service, which promises speeds a hundred times faster than typical broadband at a cost of about $70, plus television for an additional $60.

He also said it’s too early to say which Triangle communities will be offered the service first.

Google is now in the midst of the largest expansion of its high-speed Internet service, which is currently available in Kansas City, Mo., Austin, Texas, and Provo, Utah.

In January, the company announced that it would expand Google Fiber to the Triangle and three other metropolitan areas in the Southeast: Charlotte, Atlanta and Nashville. Those four markets were chosen from a pool of 21 metropolitan areas.

In recent months Google has been working with Triangle municipalities to get the necessary approvals for installing fiber huts and streamlining its construction efforts. While the company doesn’t have all the approvals it needs, Garr said it has enough to begin construction.

“We feel like we’ve had a great partnership with all the municipalities in the Triangle and just a great reception so we’re excited to move on to this next phase,” he said.

Garr said residents will soon start seeing dozens of Google and Bechtel crews at work across the Triangle, tunneling underground to bury cable as well as aerial crews working to string fiber between telephone poles.

Google’s investment in the Triangle comes as several of its competitors are also making efforts to improve their local networks.

AT&T has begun offering its GigaPower service in the Triangle and Time-Warner Cable has been making lesser upgrades for local subscribers.

Bracken: 919-829-4548;

Twitter: @brackendavid

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