Officials in Raleigh, Durham and Charlotte last week received vague "save-the-date" invitations from Google, fueling speculation that the events will unveil the technology giant's plans to bring its gigabit-fast Internet fiber to those North Carolina cities. Google last year had identified several cities in the state, and a total of 34 communities across the U.S., as potential candidates for Google Fiber.
Google had been expected to reveal which cities would be next in line for its high-speed Internet services last December, but put off the announcement, saying it had "a bit more work to wrap up." It added that it would announce which cities made the Fiber short list early this year.
Google Fiber, which delivers gigabit-per-second connectivity, is already being deployed in Kansas City, Austin and Provo. Those projects, with promises of more to come, have also prompted other companies such as AT&T, CenturyLink and Time Warner Cable to roll out high-speed fiber plans of their own in different parts of the country.
Invitations to Evening Receptions
Several North Carolina news outlets last week reported that invitations from Google had gone out to a number of local officials and others in Charlotte, Raleigh and Durham. The invites stated, "Google cordially invites you to save the date for an evening reception."
Little information was provided beyond a time and date for the events, although a note added that more details would be forthcoming. The receptions are scheduled for 4:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesday in Charlotte and Raleigh, and for the same times on Thursday in Durham.
Among those receiving invitations were Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio, Charlotte City Manager Ron Carlee, Raleigh Councilman Bonner Gaylord, an executive at Queens University and Charlotte Hearts Gigabit, a local group advocating for high-speed Internet service.
Officials in Raleigh have been having "ongoing" conversations with Google about where the fiber huts needed for the Internet service might be placed, according to a report in the Triangle Business Journal. Another story in the Charlotte Observer quoted a city official there as having "very positive" talks with Google.
The Charlotte Observer article also noted, "In November, a representative of the Moore & Van Allen law firm in Charlotte incorporated a North Carolina entity for Google Fiber, according to N.C. Secretary of State records."
City officials in Charlotte have already issued a list identifying 31 locations where Google could install the fiber huts it needs for the high-speed service. And the WRAL TechWire cited several unnamed sources who said that Google has contacted area engineering firms and other companies that would be needed to help create a local fiber infrastructure.
Obama Urges Broadband Development
There is growing support for faster Internet service in the U.S., which currently ranks 13th in global network speeds. A statement issued by the White House earlier this month noted that high-speed, low-cost broadband promotes economic growth, and President Obama has called for faster development of such services through greater competition, removal of regulatory hurdles, investment incentives, and grant and loan programs.
Alan Fitzpatrick, co-founder of Charlotte Hearts Gigabit, told us: "The killer app for local fiber networks is economic development. Specific areas where it could help our region include: Healthcare, Clean Energy, Education and Workforce Development, Advanced Manufacturing, Emergency Preparedness and Public Safety, and Transportation."
He added, "One of the benefits we've already seen from Google Fiber considering Charlotte is AT&T and TWC both committing to improve their offerings in the region."