Google Fiber gets initial enviro okay in San Jose, could be model for California

22 October 2015 by Steve Blum
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I hope they survey me, Robin. The Batcave still has dial up.

Google Fiber is taking a harder look at San Jose. The city has prepared the initial environmental assessment, more than 400 pages long, which declares there will be no significant environmental impact if Google builds out a fiber to the home system there

The proposed Project includes the following components: The installation of approximately 2,300 miles of fiber optic cables (consisting of about 1,340 miles of below ground installation and 960 miles of aerial installation using existing utility poles); the installation of approximately ten Local Aggregation Sites either inside pre-fabricated communications shelters (fiber huts) or enclosed within existing commercial buildings; underground utility vaults and utility cabinets; and connections directly to customers. With the exception of the Local Aggregation Sites and connections to customers, the fiber cables, vaults, and cabinets will be located within existing public right-of-ways or easements.

That’s not to say there’s absolutely no possibility of environmental degradation. This is California, after all. So among things, biologist will check for nesting birds before work is done, and if any trees have to be cut down, a bat survey will be done. Workers will get special training so they can spot anything of historical or archeological value. There are special procedures to be used around waterways and conditions relating to noise and air quality. And it goes on. But the bottom line is…

The project described above will not have a significant effect on the environment in that the attached initial study identifies one or more potentially significant effects on the environment for which the applicant, before public release of this draft Mitigated Negative Declaration, has made or agrees to make project revisions that clearly mitigate the effects to a less than significant level.

It’s not time to pop the champagne corks yet. Both city and Google reps have said no decision on whether to build out in San Jose, or other Silicon Valley cities, has been made (h/t to the Baller-Herbst list for the pointer). If it ever happens, it won’t be before the environmental review is completed. Now that the initial report has been posted, there’s a 30 day window, which closes on 12 November 2015, for anyone to challenge it.

It appears that San Jose has reached some kind of agreement with Google for blanket permission to build the network. The report references a “master encroachment permit from the department of public works for work in the public right of way”, for example. If this can get past the Nimbys, it could be a template for broadband development throughout California.

We can only hope.

City of San Jose’s draft initial study and mitigated negative declaration for citywide Google Fiber
Appendix A: typical facilities and fiber hut site plans
Appendix B: air quality report
Appendix C: noise report