Google Fiber Asks Nashville What It’s Doing For The ‘Unconnected’

The red cities are those currently being considered for Google Fiber. Green cities either already have it or are in the process of getting it. Image: Google

The red cities are those currently being considered for Google Fiber. Green cities either already have it or are in the process of getting it. Image: Google

On Wednesday, a representative from Google Fiber met with elected officials and nonprofit groups to see what the city is doing to connect those not usually served by the Internet.

Nashville is one of nine metro areas the company is considering for its high speed network, which Google claims is 100 times faster than the average broadband connection, and, for some, can be as cheap as $25 a month.

Erica Swanson, the manager of Google Fiber’s digital inclusion program, said she’s not the one seeing how Nashville is doing on its Google Fiber check list, a slate of goals cities must hit in order for the program to start. Instead, Swanson is assessing the state of the digital divide.

She summarizes the Google Fiber’s aspirations like this:

“Being an affordable option for people who have never been online before. Who haven’t had home Internet for one reason or another. And giving them the chance to have a more affordable connection to the Internet.”

Swanson said if Google Fiber comes to Nashville, it will look a lot like how the company unrolled it in Kansas City.

The city would be divided into “Fiberhoods,” which are service areas by which Google gauges demand. If enough consumers say yes, the company will start digging up roads or slinging fiber optic cables along utility poles. In Kansas City, according to Swanson, 90 percent of people in the access areas opted in.

The cheapest Google Fiber service is a one-time $300, which the company says is the installation cost. That sum can be spread across a year, making for $25 monthly payments. From there, the service is free for 7 years.

But for some communities, affordability isn’t the tallest hurdle, she says. Digital literacy skills and whether or not Internet is relevant in daily life for some people are issues she’s come across.

“It’s a complex problem,” Swanson says. “And it isn’t as easy as just giving someone an Internet connection and expecting that they become an internet adopter.”

Although she says the cities should not be seen as competing against each other, some are farther along than others. In San Antonio, for instance, the city council has approved  the construction of some of the infrastructure needed to bring Google Fiber to their city.

In Nashville, meanwhile, council members have written letters of support, as their first vote of confidence.

City officials have until May 1 to respond to the list of needs.

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