LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – A day after Google Fiber made the surprise announcement that it’s abandoning Louisville, company and city officials have said little about what happens next.
Will the Silicon Valley giant, which had $31 billion in profits last year, restore the streets it cut up primarily in Portland and a few Highlands-area neighborhoods?
Will the miles of fiber-optic cable Google Fiber laid in the city be ripped out or bequeathed to Metro government? Could another Internet provider make use of what Google leaves behind?
In a statement Thursday, a Google Fiber representative said the company would be talking to Louisville Metro officials about these issues before it turns off service April 15. The spokesman did not respond to second interview request on Friday.
Neither Mayor Greg Fischer, nor his chief of civic innovation Grace Simrall, were available for questions on Friday. Al Andrews, who oversaw Google Fiber’s right-of-way permits at Louisville Metro Public Works, referred a reporter to city spokespeople.
“As for the infrastructure, city representatives will be meeting with Google next week to work out the logistical details and obligations related to the company’s planned exit,” Louisville Metro spokesman Joe Lord said in an email.
Lord said Google Fiber "required to restore any excavation or construction work conducted within the Louisville Metro rights-of-way back to the original condition or better."
That's a directive of the city's public works policy, to which Google Fiber agreed as part of its 2016 Metro franchise agreement.
Metro Council member Pat Mulvihill, a lawyer who used to deal with telecommunications franchise issues when he was with the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office, said his understanding is that Google Fiber would be legally required to restore any defects in city streets to the satisfaction of Metro Public Works.
“I do think they have some responsibility to repair or fix that, or get it tamped down or whatever,” he said, referring to sealant popping out of the shallow trenches that Google Fiber dug along roadsides.
Mulvihill added that he believes the fiber-optic lines that Google Fiber installed under city streets would become Metro government property if abandoned, while the lines under residential yards and boxes attached to homes become the property of homeowners.
Could the city make use of Google’s fiber-optic infrastructure, or hand it to another Internet provider?
Valerie Baute, a member of the family that owns IgLou Internet Services, a local provider that sells access using AT&T’s wires, said she doubts Google Fiber’s remnants are able to be salvaged because they were “so poorly installed” in the first place.
“You’d pretty much have to destroy what’s there and start over,” she said.
Metro Council member Brandon Coan, who represents the Belknap, Deer Park and Strathmoor areas where Google Fiber focused most, said a Google Fiber official promised him on Thursday that they would fix any problems and “leave the place in as good a shape as they found it.”
Coan said that should mean, at a minimum, pouring asphalt into all the shallow trenches and removing any remaining sealant that popped out and exposed the fiber-optic conduit.
Coan noted that seams currently visible in city streets will eventually be removed altogether as each road is repaved.
“I am pretty confident we are going to be able to erase the visible reminders of this experiment in time and hopefully, sooner than later,” he said.