Things are going to be moving a lot faster around here thanks to a new service agreement approved this week. We became the 15th Kansas City community to announce a deal that will bring Google Fiber (Google’s Internet and TV service) to Merriam sometime in the near future. It’s a deal that was a long-time coming for many of you, but it’s also one that might have more questions than answers right now.
Why is it such a big deal?
Speed… blazingly fast speed. The average American’s Internet moves at 6.7 megabits per second (mbps). Google Fiber will be offering a service that gets 1000mbps (thus the term gigabit). Google, and many others, feels like this will not only allow customers to use the Internet faster (100x in this case), but will also foster new web applications that could dramatically change connectively across many different platforms.
Note their video explanation below:
Why did it take so long for us to announce?
A uniquely complicated contract and negotiation process. Staff started work with Google in early spring and eventually retained legal counsel from the same attorney who represented Kansas City, Kansas in their negotiations with Google Fiber. Their efforts were largely centered on making the deal equitable in relation to other ISP providers and trying to mitigate some of the more unusual aspects of the deal that aren’t normally found in municipal contracts.
What’s a little unusual about this deal?
Unlike most service agreements, there are no provisions that explicitly compel Google to offer its services. On top of that, Google asked the city to use public land for their "Fiber Huts" (11'x28'x9' facilities which would house their equipment), ability to deploy fiber through city-owned conduit, ability to attach WiFi equipment on certain city-owned street lights, and access to public right-of-way. Staff will still have discretion over these allocations and Google will still have to comply with municipal codes for them (including approvals from the planning commission where applicable), but there is some cause for concern over their placements & size.
Many of you remember issues related to Surewest’s installations a few years ago so this is an area that I will be monitoring closely.
Why should the community take notice of this?
Google will use "commercially reasonable efforts" to provide free broadband internet services to public facilities (presumably Crestview, Merriam Park, and the library). They’ll also use "commercially reasonable efforts" to deploy a WiFi Network to a limited number of publicly accessible areas which will be free to all users in those areas – not just free for Google's customers.
Google officials will soon host a special information session just for Merriam residents at their Fiber Space store in KCMO. That will be your chance to learn more about their service and how it might impact you. Sign-ups likely won’t start until next year once they have a construction plan in place for Merriam. It should be noted that their sign-up process involves “fiberhoods” (smaller segments of the city) that must meet a minimum number of “pre-registrations” before service would be installed. More on those fiberhoods and the signup process later.
Let me know what you think of Google Fiber and/or if you have any questions about the deal we made. I welcome your feedback via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.