SLC finishes Google Fiber checklist

Posted at 5:09 PM, May 02, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-02 19:09:05-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- City leaders have finished Google's checklist of what it would take to bring super high-speed Internet to homes here.

In an interview with FOX 13 on Friday, Nole Walkingshaw, Salt Lake City's manager of institutional engagement, said he believed the city had done enough to bring Fiber to town. The existing infrastructure would work, and the city council could help move permits through to build it.

"It's essentially plug and play," he said. "We could manage the process."

See the Salt Lake City Fiber Checklist here

In a statement to FOX 13, Google said Salt Lake City was "incredibly enthusiastic and thorough."

"Not only did they efficiently complete their checklist, but they've also proactively taken the next step -- they've told us that they're already trying to come up with a better and faster construction permitting process for big infrastructure projects like Fiber," wrote Google spokeswoman Jenna Wandres.

Google Fiber would run along existing power lines. The tech giant boasts speeds up to 100 times faster than other Internet providers. Critics have said Google Fiber would be a monopoly in Salt Lake City, noting the network would not allow any other Internet service providers.

Salt Lake City officials said Google is funding the entire project. Taxpayers would not have to fund anything, but the city would have to speed permits through.

"Providing high-speed infrastructure to a city -- to some -- is considered another utility," said Jessica Thesing, the economic development manager for Salt Lake City. "It's considered, sort of, an important step in becoming a digital city."

Google Fiber is expected to announce by the end of the year which cities it will move into. Salt Lake City is among 34 cities nationwide being considered.

If Google turns down the city, Thesing told FOX 13 that Salt Lake City used the experience to lure others as potential fiber network providers.

"We used this as an opportunity to be proactive and we developed what we call a 'fiber guide' in Salt Lake City," she said.

While Salt Lake City is eagerly courting high-speed Internet, other cities are looking at a change of management for theirs. Australia-based Macquarie Capital has been meeting with cities on the UTOPIA network to talk about taking over.

"They would run it, do the refresh, do the build-out in areas that are not built out," said Blaine Lutz, Centerville's finance director and a UTOPIA board member. "They would then have exclusive right to operate the network."

Macquarie Capital has published details of its proposal here

The UTOPIA network provides high-speed Internet to 11 cities: Brigham City, Centerville, Layton, Lindon, Midvale, Murray, Orem, Payson, Perry, Tremonton and West Valley City. The network is only partially built and operating at a loss of millions of dollars.

But high-speed Internet has been seen as an economic development engine for cities, and residents demand it.

"We're not cutting edge, we're bleeding edge," Lutz told FOX 13. "As you can see now, everybody has a big interest in fiber and realizing that is what you're going to need for telecommunications."

Under the terms of Macquarie's proposal, homes would be assessed a utility fee -- as much as $20 a month -- whether they use UTOPIA or not, Lutz said.

The cities have until the end of June to decide Macquarie's offer.