BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.
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AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2015 | www.broadbandcommunities.com | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | 27 Charlotte's Google Fiber Web Google came, Google saw, Google is building. But why did Google choose Charlotte? By Marianne Cotter / Broadband Communities O n January 16, 2015, 800,000 residents of Charlotte, N.C., woke up to the news that Google Fiber had chosen Charlotte as one of its next fber cities. Tough many of these citizens might have been a bit vague as to what a gig to the home would mean, a large contingent of city ofcials, community partners and grassroots organizers were not. Euphoria spread quickly among those who had spent much of the last year prepping to make this moment happen. Who can blame them? Google was about to invest millions of its own dollars in building a state-of-the-art fber network that would reach every neighborhood in the city – without costing the city or its citizens a cent. But how did Charlotte make the grade? Oddly enough, the city didn't even bite in 2010 when Google launched the competition that had cities vying with one another to win Google's frst fber buildout, which eventually went to Kansas City. "We knew Google was a long shot and declined to participate in the frenzy," recalls Charlotte CIO Jef Stovall. "At the time, we were more interested in the federal BTOP [broadband stimulus] grant, which we received in September 2010, within a few months of the Google competition." In choosing its second round of cities, Google took a more considered approach. Instead of using a competition model, it researched the potential of a group of cities and then approached the leadership to ascertain interest. "It was diferent the second time around," Stovall recalls. "We were apparently on their short list of cities, and they didn't tell us why except [for] some generalities about Charlotte being fast-growing. Clearly the growth that Charlotte had gained over the last decade, plus our reputation for being business-focused as both a city government and a city, likely contributed to their initial interest in Charlotte." Jess George, Google Charlotte's manager of community impact, puts it like this: "When Google is looking to bring fber into a city, the questions are, 'Is it growing? Is it vibrant? Is it welcoming? Does it have a city government that is eager and helpful to work with?' And then there's the aspirational question of what will this city do with a gig that will transform not only the city itself but also the region and perhaps beyond." She adds, "Charlotte is a major U.S. fnancial and business center, host to the headquarters of seven Fortune 500 companies, in which we think Google Fiber will have a powerful local impact. We knew those companies would beneft in terms of being able to attract and retain high-caliber employees who want Google Fiber in their communities." So in February 2014, Charlotte became one of 34 cities invited to complete Google's infamous checklist – that laundry list of needs, assets, access and cooperation that allows Google to gauge how responsive each city would be to a smart company that moves fast. GAUGING RESPONSIVENESS A fully committed city government went to work on the checklist under the leadership of Phil Reiger, the city's assistant transportation director, who was in the best position to manage Google's work environment. "Te fber optic cable will, COMMUNITY BROADBAND