Google Fiber to Pay Louisville, Ky., $3.84M After Exit

The money will go toward restoring certain roads and public rights-of-way affected by the private company's recent decision to discontinue efforts to establish the high-speed Internet service in the city.

Google Fiber will pay $3.84 million back to Louisville, Ky., to fix roads and other public rights-of-way, the city announced Monday.

This comes after the company stopped all service in Louisville in February, essentially leaving town without fulfilling the implied promise of providing access to high-speed Internet throughout the jurisdiction, as it has in other cities such as Austin and Kansas City, Mo. The money Google Fiber has now agreed to pay Louisville will go toward fulfilling obligations the company previously agreed to, including its franchise agreement and local regulations that require service providers to restore rights-of-way after ending service.

The city noted in its announcement that these payments, which will be made over a period of 20 months, will go toward removing fiber and sealants from Louisville’s roads; conducting mining and paving activity where it is needed; and removing any above-ground infrastructure the company had in place. This agreement applies to network installations in the Portland, Newburg and The Highlands neighborhoods — all of which were communities where Google Fiber had offered its service before the withdrawal.

Google Fiber will also make a one-time $150,000 donation to the Community Foundation of Louisville’s Digital Inclusion Fund, which supports digital equity efforts in the area. Those efforts include refurbishing used computers for low-income families as well as enrolling the residents of public housing in affordable Internet options. Google, the city noted, also plans to donate 275 refurbished computers directly to the Louisville Metro Housing Authority.

“Infrastructure in neighborhoods and public properties affected by Google Fiber will look as good or better than they did before the company began construction, just as our franchise agreement stipulated,” said Louisville Chief of Civic Innovation and Technology Grace Simrall in a statement. “The city will diligently repair these roads and public spaces over the 20-month period.”

In that same statement, Simrall also went on to credit Google Fiber’s brief time in the city for spurring other companies to increase their investment in the area. Google Fiber’s service in the Louisville area will end just before midnight. The company, the city notes, has also provided the last two months of service to users in the area for free.

Mark Strama, general manager for Google Fiber, said in a statement that “discontinuing service in Louisville was a very difficult business decision for Google Fiber.”

In the wake of Google Fiber departing Louisville, community broadband experts have noted that the company’s commitment to spreading its service and making affordable high-speed Internet accessible to more cities and regions has waned, likely owing to a change in leadership at the corporate level. The company once believed it was indirectly advantageous to ensure that as much of the country as possible had high-speed Internet at home, the experts said, but Google is now investing instead in other enterprises.

Local media has described Google Fiber leaving Louisville as “a major hit” to residents’ choices for buying high-speed Internet. As Google noted in a goodbye letter, Louisville was the first city wherein it has discontinued its service. Points that Google made in that letter included that it had moved faster from announcement to sign-up in Louisville than in other cities, they were trialing a new construction method in Louisville, and that resultant challenges had led to disruptions in service there.

Associate editor for Government Technology magazine