Cary News

Google Fiber delays announcement

Any decision on whether local towns might get a much-touted Google Fiber hookup won’t come until at least early 2015.

After originally saying a decision would be made by the end of this year, Google delayed its timeline.

“We’ve been working closely with cities across the Triangle region to figure out how we could bring them Google Fiber, and we’re grateful for their vision, commitment, and plain old hard work,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement.

“While we were hoping to have an update for cities before the holidays, we have a bit more work to wrap up. We’ll be back in touch sometime early next year,” the statement said.

Several municipalities in the Triangle – Raleigh, Cary, Morrisville, Durham, Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Garner – comprise one of nine metro areas nationwide in the hunt for the super-high-speed Internet connection Fiber offers. Charlotte also is under consideration.

They have been working with Google since February to prove they have the right kind of infrastructure and public policies to host the tech giant’s Internet service. Google Fiber lets homeowners – but not yet businesses – connect to the Internet at about one gigabit per second.

That’s 100 times faster than a standard broadband connection, according to Google, which would drastically change the way people and businesses use the Internet. Cary-based SAS Institute played a large role in pushing for Google Fiber when the idea was first unveiled.

“This could truly transform interaction on the Web,” one SAS official wrote in a 2010 letter urging employees to lobby Google Fiber on behalf of the Triangle. “Hospitals, schools and research facilities could quickly access large amounts of data in real time, allowing them to make changes that impact thousands of people.”

In Morrisville, development services director Tim Gauss said he thinks the Triangle stands a good shot at winning the service, but that Google officials have been very careful not to give away any hints.

“They are tight lipped and don’t want to reveal anything,” Gauss said. “They’re being very careful in their due diligence.”

Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht said landing Google Fiber would be a major win for Cary and the six other cities that would get its services. Like Gauss, he said he’s confident that the Triangle is a front-runner.

“I don’t know what their reasons for the delay are, but they’ve been working pretty closely with our staff,” Weinbrecht said. “There’s nothing on our end to indicate they’re not coming to Cary.”

If that were to happen, he said, the area would gain a tech-friendly reputation that could improve quality of life and potentially aid economic development.

Weinbrecht also wrote on his blog that if Google Fiber picks the Triangle, there could be some minor nuisances for residents, and that the town might also make some temporary hires to deal with all the paperwork.

“If this happens Google will hire several contractors to install the fiber throughout town with an aggressive 12 to 18 month timeframe,” Weinbrecht wrote. “This will mean a lot of dug up yards and a lot of complaints.”

Google would pay for all the construction costs, but Morrisville, Cary and the other towns would have to make sure all the review and permitting procedures are in place for a quick installation.

“If they do go with us, I think they want a pretty fast rollout,” Gauss said.

Competition

It’s unclear, however, if other companies will use Google’s delay to swoop in and claim territory. The main competition is from AT&T, which has a service called GigaPower that can rival the speeds of Google Fiber.

The company offers service in parts of Raleigh, Cary and Durham, although many addresses are not covered, and the boundaries of the service area are unclear.

“I think they’re making their way through Cary,” Weinbrecht said. “I don’t know how much they have gotten through, although they haven’t gotten to my neighborhood.”

AT&T also says future growth is possible, including expansion into Apex, Garner and Morrisville – towns Google is also eying. AT&T already has a presence in Winston-Salem and could later expand to Greensboro and Charlotte.

In a year or two, Triangle residents could go from having no fiber options to having two competing brands to pick from.

“Google is not the only fiber provider, so we are trying to be open to allow for anyone to come in,” Gauss said.

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