Atlanta, others make Google Internet deadline

Atlanta and eight other metro area cities cleared Google’s deadline Thursday for providing information that keeps them in the running for getting the company’s ultra-fast residential Internet service.

In a blog post, Google said the deadline was met by all 34 cities nationally where it is considering adding gigabit-per-second connections, with speeds that are 100 times faster than the average for U.S. homes.

Google spokeswoman Jenna Wandres wrote in an email to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that “it appears that the 9 (metro Atlanta) cities have submitted all of the information that we asked for in the checklist. We do need to spend the next few weeks reviewing those documents, making sure they’re complete, and probably asking some follow-up questions … but all of the local cities will be moving on to the next steps.”

And most of the cities locally and nationally have yet to get their city councils or other local officials to approve draft agreements on potentially leasing property to Google for some fiber equipment. Also, area leaders will likely be pressed by Google to find speedy ways to handle the mountains of local permits the technology giant may need for widespread construction installations.

Providers nationally are racing to boost speeds for data hungry consumers, some of whom are enticed by service that can download a movie in a blur.

In February, Google announced its interest in expanding its Google Fiber program to 34 cities in nine metro areas. Locally, the cities include Atlanta, Decatur, Smyrna, Sandy Springs, East Point, College Park, Hapeville, Brookhaven and Avondale Estates.

City staffers uploaded information to Google that it says will help it evaluate the cost, speed and overall feasibility of it installing the fiber, which can be strung between poles or put underground. The cities shared details on a range of fronts, including permit processes and specific locations of all property lines, addresses and city-owned poles, manholes and underground conduits.

Google’s post today said that as it reviews the information “we’ll probably have a lot of follow-up questions.”

The company would still need to get state or local franchise agreements as well as deals with utilities and others that own poles and conduit that Google might hope to use for its network. The company is expected to announce late this year which cities will get the fiber.

Competitors have their own projects underway.

Comcast is upgrading residential Internet offerings this month in metro Atlanta, with speeds expected to top out at about half that of Google’s gigabit service.

AT&T recently announced it is considering offering residential gigabit speeds in nearly 100 communities nationwide including Alpharetta, Atlanta, Decatur, Duluth, Lawrenceville, Lithonia, McDonough, Marietta, Newnan, Norcross, and Woodstock.

“We know these communities because we are serving them now and have been for many years,” Beth Shiroishi, the president of AT&T-Georgia, wrote in an email to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday. “We do not shy away from competition and are committed to delivering a superior network technology to serve our customers.”

The company hasn’t announced a timeline. Said Shiroishi, “We are only beginning conversations with cities and look forward to working with each of them to streamline the process.”

Atlanta-based Cox Communications, the nation’s third largest cable provider, said it plans to offer gigabit Internet service to residential customers throughout its system. Its only Georgia market is the Macon area.

Cox Communications said it will announce initial markets for the enhanced service in the next few weeks.

“This is part of our ongoing strategy of increasing our product capabilities,” said Todd Smith, a spokesman for the company, which, like The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, is part of privately held Cox Enterprises.

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