By Zoe Bedell – Edited by Gea Kang
On March 13, 2014, the San Antonio City Council pre-approved a long-term lease that would allow Google to begin construction to bring Google Fiber to the city. While Google has not yet chosen San Antonio as a destination for its fiber network, the city’s leaders hope that the lease will encourage Google to do so. Wired discusses the city’s move.
Google’s high-speed Internet service is currently available in Kansas City, Missouri, and Provo, Utah. Google has also announced plans to expand to Austin, Texas, and will be considering thirty-four additional cities in nine different metropolitan areas for further expansion. The company has established selection criteria that will speed up the review process and ensure that construction can proceed quickly. For instance, Google asks interested cities to provide details on existing infrastructure and to review local permitting processes.
San Antonio’s early move to approve a long-term lease aims to demonstrate its commitment to facilitating Google’s review and construction processes. The lease would allow Google to build Fiber Huts, equipment aggregator locations where the fiber would enter the cities before heading out on utility poles to individual homes. San Antonio has approved hut locations in public facilities including libraries and fire and police stations. The city anticipates that its ownership of the local power utility and 86% of the utility poles will factor positively in Google’s evaluation.
According to Wired, major telecommunications companies like Verizon and Time Warner have been slower to enter the fiber market due to their having found limited consumer demand. Some experts, however, believe that such companies are deterred more by their interests in protecting their current high-margin business model and avoiding the expense of building out a fiber network. In some cases, Google Fiber has prompted traditional providers to provide faster services. AT&T, for example, rolled out fiber Internet in Austin shortly after Google announced it would be building a network there.
The efforts of cities like San Antonio to attract Google Fiber indicate that consumer demand for fiber may indeed exist. The San Antonio Business Journal writes that Google Fiber is likely to draw technology start-ups looking to leverage its robust infrastructure, a phenomenon already seen in Provo, Utah. But while industry analysts suggest that some competition in this highly consolidated market is better than none, Google Fiber’s relatively small footprint means that it may be unlikely to transform the national market or alter market dynamics significantly.