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Portland opens its doors to Google Fiber, which could be an eyesore for residents

google fiber van
Image: Neerav Bhatt/Flickr Image used with permission by copyright holder

Portland, Oregon, is one step closer to basking in the glory that is Google-provided gigabit Internet service. On Wednesday, Portland commissioners unanimously approved a 29-page franchise agreement between Google Fiber and the city, which was reached in April. Now it’s up to Google to decide whether bringing Google Fiber to Portland and five surrounding suburbs is a feasible proposition. 

From now until the end of 2014, Google will evaluate local regulations, topography and access to utility poles to see whether a 10-year venture in the City of Roses is viable. In other words, the deal is not yet done and Google can still step away from the opportunity.

If the endeavor does move forward, Google will shell out at least $300 million in Portland to build the network, according to an estimate from Portland’s Office for Community Technology. According to the April agreement, Google would provide free Internet service to unspecified nonprofits and up to three free outdoor Wi-Fi networks in unspecified parts of Portland. 

This doesn’t mean everyone in Portland would receive Google Fiber Internet service. Instead, Google will hold rallies to build and gauge interest in certain neighborhoods. The neighborhoods with the most subscription commitments would receive Google Fiber service (what Google refers to as “fiberhoods”).

Google says customers interested in its low-cost 5 megabits-per-second service (free after a $300 one-time installation fee) will have just as much of a say in where it builds as customers interested in its much-touted gigabit service.

Bringing Google Fiber to Portland could be an eyesore for some residents, as Google would install about 15 “fiber huts” and about 200 utility cabinets in public areas to help distribute its network. The city is rewriting rules to allow Google and other telecom companies to build these utility cabinets, which could further the aesthetic tragedy in some residents’ eyes.

The company now has to have talks with the five surrounding cities (Gresham, Tigard, Lake Oswego, Beaverton and Hillsboro), which have all expressed interest.

Gigabit Internet speeds allow users to download one gigabyte of data in about nine seconds, in ideal conditions. Google says this is about 100 times faster than typical broadband speeds today.

According to Google, other potential candidate cities for Google Fiber include San Antonio; Salt Lake City; Phoenix; San Jose, California; Nashville, Tennessee; Atlanta; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.

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Jason Hahn
Jason Hahn is a part-time freelance writer based in New Jersey. He earned his master's degree in journalism at Northwestern…
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