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San Antonio Taxpayers Pay For Google Fiber Mistakes—Will Nashvillians Be Next?

September 26, 2016

iStock_000005643842MediumEarlier this month, the Coalition for the New Economy highlighted a column by Utah Taxpayers Association Vice President Billy Hesterman that argued taxpayers shouldn’t subsidize Google Fiber broadband networks.

Just how widespread are Google Fiber’s favors? Well, in Nashville the company just won a vote that will allow it to move other Internet providers’ infrastructure without permission or notice.

And that’s not all, as Watchdog.Org’s Kendric Ward revealed last month. According to Ward, in San Antonio, Texas “taxpayers are subsidizing Google Fiber with a series of bargain land leases, and cleaning up after the company’s drilling mess.”

The land deals include allowing Google Fiber to lease a 7,800 square foot space in San Antonio’s Haskin Park for “far below market value.” Google Fiber is paying the city $0.29 per square foot for park space even though the prevailing market rate is around $5 a square foot. Google Fiber is also exempt from the park’s closure rules, which means the company can “run trucks and service crews to its park-based huts around the clock.”

Neighborhood activist John Whitsett told Ward there was “no negotiation” on the Haskin Park deal. Whitsett also said the $90,000 Google Fiber will pay the city for the park space, and about 40 other sites “won’t even cover the cost for one city staffer to handle the program.” Bexar County’s chief appraiser Mike Amezquita defended the deal. He told Ward, “I don’t believe there is any correlation between the market value of lots and what the city leases a public park for. The lease appears to facilitate a temporary use and when terminated the land will remain public parkland.”

Still, Whitsett said the deal came at the expense of city taxpayers and argued it “is an absolute giveaway with no concern for the true value of property.”

San Antonio taxpayers have also paid to clean up after Google Fiber. Ward explains that Google Fiber “cable drillers have broken water and sewer lines in older neighborhoods,” but the city water system, not the company, has been responsible for repairing the damage. Whitsett said, “All this did was empower and encourage Google’s drilling contractors to operate carelessly.” Whitsett’s own property was harmed by Google Fiber installers. He alleges there was about $15,000 in damage that the city had to repair.

That story makes us wonder: who will foot the bill in Nashville if Google Fiber damages lines there? Will it be the private businesses that actually invested in and built the lines, or will it be taxpayers?

Neither of those options seem fair, but, given the sweetheart deals it is used to, it’s not likely Google Fiber could be bothered to assume the cost.