Carrboro, Chapel Hill may get Google Fiber

Google just announced that it's inviting 34 cities to "explore what it would take to bring them Google Fiber." Carrboro and Chapel Hill are among those 34 cities as a part of the Raleigh-Durham metropolitan area. Other area cities invited as part of the metro area include Cary, Durham, Garner, Morrisville, and Raleigh.

Google Fiber is the next generation of Internet access — Internet that is up to 100 times faster that current basic broadband access.

From Google's official blog:

We aim to provide updates by the end of the year about which cities will be getting Google Fiber. Between now and then, we’ll work closely with each city’s leaders on a joint planning process that will not only map out a Google Fiber network in detail, but also assess what unique local challenges we might face. These are such big jobs that advance planning goes a long way toward helping us stick to schedules and minimize disruption for residents.

We’re going to work on a detailed study of local factors that could affect construction, like topography (e.g., hills, flood zones), housing density and the condition of local infrastructure. Meanwhile, cities will complete a checklist of items that will help them get ready for a project of this scale and speed. For example, they’ll provide us with maps of existing conduit, water, gas and electricity lines so that we can plan where to place fiber. They’ll also help us find ways to access existing infrastructure—like utility poles—so we don’t unnecessarily dig up streets or have to put up a new pole next to an existing one.

You can read more about what could potentially be coming to Carrboro and Chapel Hill at Google Fiber's website.




If Google comes talking to you or Town staff about bringing ‪fiber‬ ‪broadband‬ to our Towns your constituents need to know ASAP. Corporate Non Disclosure Agreements don't have to be violated to keep us informed.

If you'd please remember Mark Chilton passionate plea to Chapel Hill Town Council and at Carrboro Alderman meetings that bridging the ‪‎digital divide‬ should be our communities main priority when thinking about expanding public broadband.

FYI - it could be a public broadband project because Google is going to want access to our Towns Fiber network in exchange for something. I'd hope.

Also how's that NC Next Generation Network (NCNGN) negotiations going? Has your staff kept you up-to-date? I've heard from elected officials that don't know.

TIP: Ask the head of your IT departments.

Thank you!

Chapel Hill and Carrboro Welcome Google’s Announcement
Posted Date: 2/19/2014
Joint News Release from the towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro

PHOTO Mayors Mark Kleinschmidt and Lyida Lavelle playing basketball
Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt and Mayor Lydia Lavelle got together recently for pickup basketball at Hargraves Recreation Center. Today, Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt and Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle announced that their towns are on a short list of cities working with Google to explore the possibility of bringing the ultra-high speed Google Fiber broadband network to the community. The regional cities listed on Google’s announcement include: Carrboro, Cary, Chapel Hill, Charlotte, Durham, Garner, Morrisville, and Raleigh.

Mayor Kleinschmidt acknowledged various initiatives that poised Chapel Hill as an attractive candidate, including a recently completed fiber optic project that installed about 30 miles of municipal fiber optic cable connecting 15 Town facilities. The cable routing and capacity design included considerations for future needs such as connectivity for schools and public housing neighborhoods. "There is enthusiastic community support for expanding broadband," Mayor Kleinschmidt said. "We are delighted that Google has included us in its consideration and will make every effort to move this forward."

Mayor Lavelle said the announcement provides another opportunity to explore how to bridge the digital divide. “Carrboro has been forward thinking in the area of broadband expansion, and has taken advantage of opportunities to expand the Town’s physical network throughout our community toward this goal," Mayor Lavelle said. "In particular, our Board of Aldermen is interested in making high speed broadband capability available to our residents who might not otherwise be able to afford this service.”

Google’s announcement recognizes that there is a huge demand for faster Internet speeds, which requires greater bandwidth. Improved broadband speed not only helps the individual citizen with faster download times, but it helps businesses provide a higher quality and level of service to consumers, who statistics show will walk away from slow-loading sites.

The news that Chapel Hill and Carrboro are on a short list of cities for Google Fiber also validates the pioneering work our community has done to try to bring faster networks to central North Carolina through participation in the North Carolina Next Generation (NCNGN) initiative. Today’s announcement does not change our commitment to participation in the NCNGN initiative but instead offers one more layer of opportunity and competition that will help bring competitively priced access to gigabit internet speeds that would be 100 times faster than today’s basic speeds to the broader community.

Google will provide an update on which cities will get Google Fiber by the end of this year.

View the Google announcement on their official blog at:

To receive contact information for Mayor Kleinschmidt or Mayor Lavelle, reach Catherine Lazorko at the Town of Chapel Hill at 919-265-7516 or

I was fortunate as a council member back in 2006 to attend a
conference in Washington D.C. on municipal broadband services, where
many cities came with their representatives either interested in how to
bridge the digital divide, or they were already attempting to do that
mainly with wireless antennae on top of buildings in addition to some
lucky enough to have fiber to the home. 

At that conference I made a point to attend a lecture by Vint Cerf,
(Chief Internet Evangalist for Google), which was filled to capacity.  I
also made a point to push to the front of the crowd after he spoke and
grab some very good quality moments with him.  I told him where I was
from and all about Chapel Hill and that our Town was planning and
hopefully investing in a fiber optic backbone,  (which we did), and that
we valued fast and ubiquitous internet for all, specifically to bridge
the digital divide.     I remember him being particularly interested and
it seemed that we were already on his radar.  He said something to the
effect that we were also in a great geographical area for Google to
think about because of our being a part of a major university (with
others nearby) and being close to RTP.    But perhaps that is how he
treats any elected official that comes up to him from some city, I don't

We have something unique in Chapel HIll and Carrboro that cities and
towns across the country would envy....our own fiber backbone.   How we
use that to bridge the digital divide and benefit all citizens is only
just beginning. I had asked for an update on our fiber optic system, aka an updated technology master plan before my leaving council in 2013, but I rotated off before I saw it.  Hopefully council will see something soon!   

One thing I've been particularly concerned with for all of these years
is net neutrality.   The Comcast/TWC conglomerate is particularly
concerning as it seems that competition will find it quite difficult to
keep up. How troubling it will be as large corporations will be deciding
what information we can see, and what to charge for it, leaving those
with lower income in the dark.

Information should be a right that we all should share equally....not carved up according to socioeconomic status.  

I am not a technology guru and don't profess to be.  I am just very
grateful for what the Town has done by investing in this fiber backbone
and hope that it can be used in a variety of ways, but most notably to
bridge the digital divide and set an example for other cities and towns.

Judging by the Google Fiber offerings in Kansas City, the "free" internet option will not end the digital divide.  They charge a $300 constuction fee and then give you 5 Mbps without charge for 7 years.  But remember that 7 years from now, 5 Mbps will not be adequate to avoid a substantial digital divide.  When those can afford it have 1000 Mbps and you have 5, there is a huge divide.  Carrboro has a fiber backbone that will be very attractive to Google.  They should give Carrboro a better deal for those who can't afford gigabit service.

I was interviewed by the Daily Tarheel about Google Fiber. Here are the questions I got and answers I provided. The "challenges" part below is based on ten plus years of paying close attention to this issue & listening to legal experts.

I'd like to hear from our local elected officials about their strategies for negotiating with Google going forward.

What would the impact be of Google Fiber coming to the area?

Potentially the impact could be huge. The impact would be most strongly felt by those who barely, if at all, have access to slow Wifi.

What would it change about broadband networking and technology here?
The most important change could be providing equal access to information for those who currently have no or intermittent broadband. The ideal is that EVERYONE should have a 1GB connection at home that they can afford.

What would be some of the benefits and potentially some of the drawbacks?
Lots of benefits. For school children it would mean more access to information from the entire world. For small business it would mean the ability to back up data quickly and affordably. For the electorate it would mean the ability to investigate various political ideas free from the slant of news media gatekeepers.

What are some challenges -- i.e. with infrastructure, or with getting the area adapted to a new networking system, or concerning conflict with existing systems -- that you foresee?

The main challenge for citizens before a network is launched is the negotiation between our local governments and a telecommunications company, like Google, for the rights to use public fiber infrastructure. For that is why governments are involved at all. Telcos want our fiber networks.

The issue is State law takes away local government enforcement ability. Specifically in ways that would help the Towns enforce conditions of use. For example, if the Town of Chapel Hill wanted to require that any Telco using public fiber infrastructure must provide an affordable service to those who can't pay for a market rate service the Town would have NO legal recourse to do so. Nor could we control how a Telco uses our fiber or how much they charge us for it. The recent issues with Network Neutrality make this particularly concerning. So if Google made a promise to provide discounted or free services to the needy, in order to connivence our representatives to vote in favor of a deal, citizens would have to trust that Google would keep their word.

There is a long history in North Carolina of Telcos making promises they do not keep. Matter of fact the lobbyists they retain helped craft State laws that took away Towns rights to create public fiber network and their ability to enforce their uses. These Telcos, with the exception of Google, bought their monopoly from the State legislature with campaign contributions. Now citizens are being asked to hand over the fiber infrastructure their State and Local tax dollars paid for with no guarantee that the digital divide will be bridged. The very idea is in total conflict with community values of fairness and inclusion.

In my mind any agreement with a privately held organization to use publicly owned fiber infrastructure will inherently be a bad deal and lead to abuse. Even if Google promises us the world.

Brian, I certainly agree with your comments, and I don't expect Google to be any "less evil" than the current providers of internet services.  Perhaps short fiber network lease periods are one answer.  That would require Google to trust us rather than all the trust going the other way. Or we could lease a portion of the fiber and use the money from the lease to provide free service to those who can't afford it.It's interesting that Google's goal with offering gigabit service is not the same as the goal of other providers.  Google is not really in the internet infrastructure business and doesn't have to make a profit from it.  They want their search and cloud and YouTube customers to have access to fast internet because they make their money by offering those customers services over the internet and then tying those services to advertising.  Google is likely entering the infrastructure business as a way to force current providers to up their game, as happened with ATT when Google Fiber moved into Austin, TX.  ATT quickly offered customers their new GigaPower internet service to prevent them from jumping to Google Fiber.  (see:  Google wins even if they never actually provide any Google Fiber to customers. Our local leaders should be aware of these business dynamics as they engage Google and the other providers in negotiations.

How do Chapel Hill and Carrboro plan to use their networks? They've each had fiber networks for government purposes for a couple of years now. What difference is it making? Have we begun to plan for the full range of services available as a result of the fiber investment? Here's one idea: 

RST Fiber coming to Triangle.   More competition for Google and Time Warner. is considering connecting to or building a mobile service infrastructure in areas where it offers Google Fiber service.

Thanks to citizen activists and responsive town government, the town of Wake Forest will have a community gigabit network before anyone in the Triangle by choosing to work with North Carolina-based RST Fibers instead of waiting for Google: 

ATT is talking a big game.  But are they really going to expand their gigabit internet service?


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