Grace Simrall

Grace Simrall, Louisville Metro chief of civic innovation, Feb. 11, 2019

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Louisville Metro government’s chief technology officer said Monday that city officials had little notice of Google Fiber’s surprise decision last week to end its superfast Internet service in Louisville, and last-ditch attempts to change the company’s mind fell on deaf ears.

Grace Simrall, chief of civic innovation and technology and Mayor Greg Fischer’s point-person on Google Fiber, said she was told of the decision the night before it was announced on Thursday.

“Unfortunately they had already made this decision at the highest levels,” Simrall told reporters on Monday. “…We tried our very best to convince them to stay.”

Simrall said city officials were well aware of the “challenges” Google Fiber had with its experimental construction method of burying fiber-optic lines as shallow as a two inches below the pavement surface city streets, but they had been assured as late as January that the giant Silicon Valley company was still committed to the market.

“We had asked them if this was a possibility and were informed by the local team that it wasn’t,” Simrall said.

In leaving Louisville, Google Fiber said it would use the “lessons” it learned here to improve its service in other cities and that those lessons were already yielding good results elsewhere.

Simrall said neither city officials nor Google Fiber wanted Louisville to be “used” as a test case for other markets.

“It certainly was never our intention for the city to be used as guinea pigs or as an experiment,” Simrall said. “We were monitoring this very closely. We did it with the best of intentions, meaning that if this succeeded, we would leapfrog other communities.”

Simrall said Google Fiber is required to restore city streets to their previous condition, a promise that is backed with bonds of an unspecified amount.

Whether fiber-optic cables can be reused by the city or another provider is to be determined, she said.

Simrall said the efforts involved in landing Google – such as updating the standards for telecommunications franchises and implementing the utility pole law Google favored – are good policy and will help attract other providers.

She said there are other potential providers besides Spectrum, the cable company, and AT&T, that are looking to enter the market. She declined to name them.

Reach reporter Chris Otts at 502-585-0822, cotts@wdrb.com, on Twitter or on Facebook. Copyright 2019 WDRB News. All rights reserved.

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Chris Otts reports for WDRB.com about business and economic topics, higher education and local / state government. He joined WDRB News in 2013 after seven years with The Courier-Journal. Got a tip? Chris is at 502-585-0822 and cotts@wdrb.com.