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Google, AT&T fiber installations draw complaints in Raleigh, Cary

Contractors Bryan Secord, foreground, and Herb Bergman sweep clay from a sidewalk as crews lay fiber optic lines for high speed internet Tuesday, December 15, 2015 on Seymour Place in Cary. Some residents have complained that workers are making a mess of the right of ways as they install the networks.
Contractors Bryan Secord, foreground, and Herb Bergman sweep clay from a sidewalk as crews lay fiber optic lines for high speed internet Tuesday, December 15, 2015 on Seymour Place in Cary. Some residents have complained that workers are making a mess of the right of ways as they install the networks. tlong@newsobserver.com

Mirely Baquero is excited about faster Internet downloads, but she’s not happy with the way construction crews are bringing the new service to her neighborhood.

Google Fiber is installing high-speed Internet lines across the Triangle, including on Baquero’s street in suburban northwest Cary. She said workers accidentally cut off her water after they first started digging a large hole in front of her house.

When they finished Tuesday morning, the grass looked as though it had been carved up like a pizza.

“We have to pay the consequences now to get something better later,” Baquero said.

Triangle residents rejoiced in January when Google Fiber announced that it would bring its services to Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and select suburbs.

Now, as contractors haul big orange reels of fiber-optic cable into Triangle neighborhoods, some residents are upset about how the tech giants are putting the fiber underground.

Residents in Raleigh and Cary have filed more than 200 complaints since crews hit the road late this summer.

They say construction crews are blocking roads without notice, digging up yards without asking, and sometimes hitting utility lines – cutting water and electric services.

Google’s move, celebrated by Gov. Pat McCrory and local leaders, came less than a year after AT&T announced plans to bring its U-Verse with GigaPower service to the area. Google Fiber plans to enter markets in Raleigh, Durham, Carrboro, Cary, Chapel Hill, Garner and Morrisville. AT&T plans to compete with Google in each area except Garner and Morrisville.

Google Fiber says it will offer Internet speeds about 100 times faster than a typical broadband connection.

The fiber installation has been slow, with Raleigh and Cary as the only areas where both companies are digging. AT&T and Google Fiber did not answer questions about how many neighborhoods have completed the process, or when the work will be finished.

Spray-painting flowers

Raleigh receives about 10 complaints a week, according to Noah Otto, right of way services coordinator for the city.

Often, they’re from folks like North Raleigh resident Paul Denisowski. Workers marked off the right of way in front of Denisowski’s home by spray-painting lines on top of his wife’s flowers, he said.

Companies are required to give Raleigh residents 14 days’ notice before they start digging in the neighborhood, but they’re not required to give notice before marking people’s yards with flags and paint.

“The problem we had on our street is that we had no notice,” said Denisowski, an electrical engineer. “All of a sudden, our street was marked up. It was a failure of communication.”

Google recently hired a community impact manager to act as a company liaison with community organizations and neighborhood groups, its statement said.

Raleigh reassigned five employees to a new Division of Right of Way Services in hope of speeding up installations while quelling resident concerns.

“We want to be responsive and build relationships,” said Otto, the division leader. “It’ll be a years-long project.”

Along with miles of fiber, construction crews bring drills and other large machinery to neighborhoods.

Cary earlier this year gave $667,000 in additional funds to various departments specifically to handle Google Fiber permitting and construction. The town has received 160 calls about fiber since installations began this summer.

On Tuesday, crews worked on Alamance Drive off Raleigh’s Glenwood Avenue as well as the Twin Lakes neighborhood between Cary and Morrisville.

Steve Bank, who lives in Baquero’s neighborhood, said he wishes Cary had rejected Google Fiber’s offer to expand there.

Construction crews are digging big holes in the sidewalks, sometimes leaving big piles of red clay in people’s yards. Bank says he and his wife couldn’t help tracking mud into their house.

“They didn’t dig the hole right, so they had to go back and dig it again,” Bank said.

It turns out that fiber installers can’t Google-search their way to the right spots.

Paul A. Specht: 919-829-4870, @AndySpecht

For more information

Google Fiber and AT&T are laying high-speed Internet fiber in Raleigh and Cary.

For more information about the process in Raleigh, go to http://bit.ly/1YiRRSK.

Information about Cary’s process can be found online at http://bit.ly/1O49LTn.

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