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Huntsville, Ala.'s Google Fiber Partnership Used in Congressional Panel to Push Next-Gen Internet Policies

State and local governments are increasingly offering incentives to lure high-speed Internet, and Huntsville is a prime example.

(TNS) — Huntsville's partnership with Google Fiber is an example of the "new and exciting partnerships" bringing next-generation Internet service to consumers, a congressional panel heard this week.

Joanne Hovis, president of a consulting firm advising the city and others, told a House subcommittee Tuesday that broadband expansion should be part of any infrastructure program developed by Congress and President Trump. High-capacity Internet is the "critical platform and driver of simultaneous progress in economic development and global competitiveness, education, health care, public safety, transportation, and much more," she said.

Left to market forces, she said, capital for these networks tends to go to dense population areas with better return on investment. Less-populated and lower-income areas without access "have seen their economies stagnate, their children move to more promising locations, their hopes for a better future ebb away," she said.

State and local governments are increasingly offering incentives to lure high-speed Internet, Hovis said. She gave Huntsville as an example.

"In February 2016, the city of Huntsville, Alabama, the state's northern technology hub, announced that its municipal electric utility will build a fiber network throughout its city limits (presumably, to pass all or most businesses and homes), and that Google Fiber will become the first lessee of some of that fiber in order to provide gigabit services to residences and small businesses."

The "Huntsville model puts the city in the business of building infrastructure," Hovis said, "a business it knows well after a century of building roads, bridges, and utilities. The model leaves to the private sector (in this case, Google Fiber, and any other provider that chooses to lease Huntsville fiber) all aspects of network operations, equipment provisioning and service delivery."

Hovis also discussed other public-private partnerships in Maryland and Minnesota.

©2017 Alabama Media Group, Birmingham Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.