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Huntsville Utilities: “We Think We Made The Right Choice”

June 23, 2017

Earlier this month, the price for shares of Alphabet stock hit $1,000. The stock’s price is up more than 25 percent this year.

Why does this matter in the debate about municipal broadband? 

Because Alphabet owns Google. And Google owns Google Fiber. Google Fiber, as this blog has noted, uses taxpayer money to build high-speed Internet networks. Huntsville, Ala. is one of the cities that have subsidized Google Fiber.

Is Huntsville happy with its decision? In a presentation last month the city utility system said, “We think we made the right choice. Ask me in a year.”

The presentation also explained how the city of Huntsville and Huntsville Utilities work with Google Fiber. According to the PowerPoint:
• Huntsville Utilities builds, owns, and maintains the fiber system;
• Construction began in the fall of 2016 and will end in the fall of 2019;
• The system will cost “around” $70 million with the city of Huntsville and Huntsville Utilities paying for the project;
• The system will include 325 route miles of underground fiber and 675 route miles of overhead fiber;
• The system will pass through 105,000 addresses;
• The system will be “part of the Electric Department.”

Google Fiber is listed in the presentation as the network’s “anchor tenant.” As WHNT-News 19 noted last year, Google Fiber didn’t have to do anything to help construct Huntsville’s municipal broadband system.

Google Fiber launched its network in Huntsville last month. Google Fiber acknowledged its partnership with Huntsville saved the multi-billion dollar company a lot of money. “Leasing the infrastructure in Huntsville rather than building from scratch allows us to bring Google Fiber to even more people, and even faster,” the company said.

Interestingly, many private providers offer Huntsville residents affordable access to high speed broadband, without a subsidy from the local utility. To name a few, Comcast, AT&T, WOW! and Mediacom also have gigabit networks, and according to Broadband Now, the city is one of the more crowded markets for broadband service in the US with 21 providers.

Google Fiber CEO Greg McCray recently announced it plans to “invest” in more cities and said the company might explore the same types of schemes that it’s pursued in Huntsville. According to DSL Reports, McCray said that “Google Fiber continues to experiment with new models … like piggybacking on Huntsville, Alabama’s municipal broadband network …”