Google Halts Kansas Fibre Plan


Google has dropped its plans to build a fibre-optic network in Overland Park, Kansas, saying it was out of patience with the city’s approval process

Google Fibre’s Gigabit Internet and cable television service in Overland Park, Kansas, has now been put on hold indefinitely by Google, a month after city leaders on 16 September delayed an imminent contract agreement and raised a last-minute liability concern with the pending deal.

At the city’s council meeting on 15 October, two local attorneys working with Google told the city’s leaders that the company was now putting a hold on its plans for Google Fibre in the area and asked the city to approve a continuance for the existing proposal. No Google Fibre representatives attended the meeting.

Delayed decision

What that apparently means is that Google plans for fibre-optic services in Overland Park are now dead, at least for now.

This appears to be the first time that a community had delayed a decision on fibre after their discussions with the company, and the first time that Google has then put its original plans on hold just before a decision was scheduled for a final vote.

google-london-officeRob Walch, an Overland Park resident who attended both council meetings, told eWEEK on 16 October that the Google announcement was a shock to the meeting’s assembled crowd of several dozen people. The meeting opened with city leaders saying that after review, they were now ready to complete the contract, he said, but the Google attorneys put a kibosh on those plans by announcing a request for an indefinite continuation for the proposal.

The attorneys told city officials that the company couldn’t say when it might again bring the plans before officials there, Walch noted. “Yes, Google said to Overland Park, ‘No soup for you,'” said Walch. “The council members and the mayor had looks of shock and horror on their faces.”

Walch said he doesn’t blame Google for the dispute, which he said was raised at the last minute in September by the city’s leaders after some nine months of negotiations between the parties. “Overland Park made it really, really hard for Google, and Google has a lot of other cities and towns to work with. Google had to make an example of somebody. Clearly, Google wanted to and did deliver a strong message to Overland Park and all other cities tonight.”

Sending a message

The apparent demise of the Google Fibre plans for the city, at least for now, is a painful loss for residents and businesses, said Walch. “Overland Park will be surrounded by cities [that have] Google Fibre, and this could hurt economically for a long time,” he said.

“I think Google clearly in this city sent a message,” said Walch. “Our city council should have been ready the last time. I have to say, if you’re on Overland Park Council right now, you have to know that this is the last term you are serving” after the way the matter was handled. “It should be interesting in these parts come the next election.”

Bill Ebel, the city’s manager, could not be reached for comment on 16 September on the latest developments in the Google Fibre plans, but Sean Reilly, the city’s communications manager, told eWEEK that he disagrees with Walch’s interpretations about the latest meeting.

“What they told us is that they would like a continuance,” said Reilly. “The agreements were continued, and the city is ready to sign them when Google Fibre is ready” to complete them. “I have no doubt that Google Fibre will come to Overland Park at some time. As far as council members looking shocked after Google’s announcement, I’m not aware of that.”

A Google spokesperson who asked for anonymity told eWEEK that the company was surprised by last month’s delay by city leaders. “Building fibre is complicated and we have very tight time windows for our construction work,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “We’ve worked with Overland Park for a number of months now, and we need to refocus our energy and resources on engineering, designing, and building a new fibre network for the communities who are waiting for fibre.”

Fibre plans

That stance could, however, change in the future and the company could at some point come back to the city to again raise its plans for the project, according to Google.

Google Fibre’s ultra-high-speed Internet and cable television services debuted in Kansas City, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri, in the autumn of 2012. In April 2013, Google announced that it would bring the service to Provo, Utah, just eight days after it unveiled plans to bring Google Fibre to Austin, Texas.

The Provo project was the third US community to be slated for Fibre service so far. Other cities, including Prairie Village, Kansas, Mission Hills, Kansas, and Roeland Park, Kansas, have also recently approved service plans for Google Fibre.

In the recently announced Austin fibre project, Google says it plans to start connecting homes by mid-2014. Customers there will have a similar choice of products as those being offered in Kansas City, including Gigabit Internet or Gigabit Internet plus Google Fibre TV service with nearly 200 HDTV channels.

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Originally published on eWeek.

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