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Google Fiber Progresses More Quickly in Nashville, Atlanta than Charlotte, Raleigh

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company has launched service in Nashville and Atlanta on a limited basis, but users in Charlotte and Raleigh haven’t yet been able to sign up.

by Katherine Peralta, The Charlotte Observer / May 24, 2016

(TNS) -- In January 2015, Google Fiber announced plans to expand its high-speed Internet service into four new communities: Charlotte, Raleigh, Atlanta and Nashville, Tenn.

For those keeping score at home, the Mountain View, Calif.-based company has launched service in Nashville and Atlanta on a limited basis, but users in Charlotte and Raleigh haven’t yet been able to sign up.

So when will service start in the two North Carolina cities? The company won’t say, but residents have been noticing contractors hauling giant orange reels of fiber-optic cables through their neighborhoods. In Charlotte, more than 3,000 miles of fiber will be laid, the company has said.

Though the construction is causing disruptions for some residents, it has also spurred excitement among consumers looking to tap speeds that are 100 times faster than normal broadband. With that kind of speed, a scientist using Google Fiber, for example, could download an entire genome in less than half an hour, the company has said. It used to take 77 hours.

Being a Google Fiber location also helps put the city on the technology map, advocates say. And even as Google is building out its project, rivals such as AT&T and Time Warner Cable are also working to boost speeds.

Here is what we know on Google’s progress so far:

Construction disruption

The Charlotte Department of Transportation characterizes the Google Fiber project as “perhaps the fastest build out of such a project,” spokeswoman Linda Durrett said.

And its construction so far has not been without disruption to Charlotte residents.

Google Fiber has a 24/7 construction hotline (877-454-6959). A company representative said Google starts investigating complaints immediately and aims to get back to callers in two business days or less.

According to CDOT, there have been 84 complaint/inquiry calls about Google Fiber between Jan. 1, 2015, and May 10, 2016. The city received 46 service request complaints/inquiries over that time, including 33 related to Google Fiber, three related to Time Warner Cable and 10 related to AT&T, which has been pushing out its own high-speed service throughout parts of Charlotte.

For the neighborhoods in which Google Fiber is being installed, the company has said it leaves door hangers with information about the project that includes contact information in case residents have any questions throughout the process.

Audra Wade is a Kannapolis schoolteacher who lives in the Winchester community in North Charlotte, and she said she didn’t have any warning about construction in her neighborhood. Crews were out for about six weeks digging and laying Google Fiber equipment close to her property in February, Wade said, preventing her from accessing her driveway for nearly a month.

The crews cracked a slab of concrete in front of her house and replaced it with a darker one that doesn’t match the rest of the sidewalk.

“What gives you the right to come and deface my property and just walk away like it’s OK?” Wade said.

On its website, Google Fiber said it’s mostly building on easements or rights of way. These are areas where local laws authorize utilities and service providers to access public and private property to install their equipment. They’re also often very close to private property lines.

Another affected resident is Brenda Mills, a retired accounting manager living in Charlotte’s Mallard Creek area. Though the construction hasn’t caused any damage to her property, crews in her neighborhood installing Google Fiber have accidentally cut water, sewer and gas lines.

Once, Mills said, a broken water line spewed water into the street for two days. Another time, the Charlotte Fire Department shut down David Cox Road, the only entrance into Mills’ neighborhood, because of a broken gas line. Neighbors had to park at a nearby church and walk in.

“People on this street are getting pretty stressed out,” Mills said.

Jess George, Google Fiber’s community impact manager for Charlotte, said the company is working to minimize construction-related disruptions as it builds out “one of the biggest infrastructure projects in Charlotte’s history.”

“We’re also committed to resolving issues as quickly and safely as we can. When construction incidents occur, contractors aim to restore areas to a state as close as possible to the condition they found it in,” George said.

Google Fiber has a construction hotline (877-454-6959) that is open 24/7, and George said when people call the hotline, the company begins investigating immediately, aiming to get back to them in two business days or less.

Pricing and an office

After construction comes the sign-up phase of the process, then in-home installation. Google Fiber hasn’t laid out when those last two steps will happen, but it has provided pricing for its services in Charlotte.

  • The Fiber 1000 + TV plan, which features Internet speeds up to 1,000 megabits (1 gigabit) per second and 150 channels plus DVR, is $130 a month.
  • Fiber 1000, which features Internet speeds of 1,000 megabits per second, is $70 a month.
  • Fiber 100, which features Internet speeds of 100 megabits per second, is $50 a month.

Google Fiber will soon open a “Fiber Space” in the former Dixie Tavern space on East Seventh Street near the 7th Street Public Market uptown. There, customers will be able to meet with Google Fiber representatives, try high-speed Internet and eventually sign up for service.

The company’s progress elsewhere suggests the company is coming closer to expanding its high-speed services here.

Earlier this year, Google Fiber plugged into existing infrastructure in Atlanta to launch its services in a few apartment buildings in the city’s suburbs, according to local reports. And earlier this month, Google Fiber launched service in four apartment and condo buildings in Nashville’s core, the Tennessean reported.

Google Fiber already operates in Kansas City; Austin, Texas; and Provo, Utah.

©2016 The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.