No fast answers for Google Fiber hopefuls or competitors

6 May 2014 by Steve Blum
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All the possible pins are still in place.

Google will keep 34 cities – along with AT&T, Comcast, Verizon and the rest – guessing whether fiber-to-the-home is coming, at least until “the end of the year”. Last Thursday was the deadline for those communities to do their Google Fiber homework

All of them have, for the most part, completed their checklists.

We say “for the most part” because there’s still a lot of work to do over the next few months. We’ll start by working with cities to tie up some checklist-related loose ends. For example, we worked with city staffers to draft agreements that would let us place fiber huts on city land; several city councils still need to approve these agreements. We may spend some time working together to figure out an ideal permitting process that would be fast and efficient.

Reading between the lines, it looks like Google’s best offer for master lease agreements is on the table and city councils will either take it or leave it. San Antonio took it – enthusiastically – and there doesn’t seem to be much push back elsewhere.

Permits are likelier to be tougher. Google wants a fully electronic and standardised process, with uniform specifications across all of its builds, not just within a particular city. There are two ways to get that: either a suitable system already exists in a city or political will is sufficient to overcome bureaucratic inertia, and do it in hurry.

By Californian standards, Santa Cruz County is moving at warp speed to streamline broadband construction permits and drop the average cost by two orders of magnitude. Even so, it’ll take more than a year to complete the process. Communities with nimby cultures – very common amongst the affluent areas Google prefers – will find meeting deadlines challenging, to say the least.