Internet giant Google could announce as early as next week that it’s bringing its super-fast Internet service to Charlotte.
Officials have received a “Save the Date” invitation from the Mountain View, Calif.-based company for a reception Wednesday evening in Charlotte. The email invitation doesn’t provide a location but says “more details to come.”
Google announced last February that it had picked Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham as two of nine metropolitan areas where it next hoped to deploy its Google Fiber networks. In December, the company said it would update cities on its plans early this year.
Landing the new network would bring faster Internet speeds to customers, add a major competitor to the market and potentially mark the city as a tech hub poised for future growth.
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Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio, one of the officials who received an invitation, said she has had no contact with Google but said “one could surmise” the invitation is related to Google Fiber. Charlotte City Manger Ron Carlee said he also had been invited but declined to comment further.
Charlotte Transportation Department Director Danny Pleasant said talks with Google have been “very positive” and that he has “strong hopes” to land the project. Development of the fiber infrastructure, Pleasant said, typically takes about two to three years.
Other invitees included Charlotte Hearts Gigabit, a group that supports high-speed Internet deployment in Charlotte, and a representative from Queens University of Charlotte.
Officials in the Raleigh-Durham area this week also received invites to a similar event, The (Raleigh) News & Observer reported. An industry source told Raleigh television station WRAL that Google Fiber is coming to that market and that construction could start in April.
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. A Google spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
100 times faster
The technology allows no-waiting downloads and uploads of big graphics, photos, videos and other large files that often strain current networks. Where basic broadband typically generates speeds of about 10 to 20 megabits per second, Google Fiber promises 1,000 megabits – or 1 gigabit – per second.
After Google put Charlotte on its possible site list, city officials submitted a formal application requesting Google to install the service.
In April, the city released a list of 31 sites for so-called “Fiber Huts,” which Google would build to help bring the service to people’s homes. The huts would be located on sites such as city-owned fire stations, water tanks, the police and fire academy, a landfill and even Evergreen Cemetery in east Charlotte.
Soon after Google began looking at Charlotte early last year, competitors Time Warner Cable and AT&T jumped in with their own plans to bring faster Internet speeds to the city. Time Warner Cable said Friday it plans to roll the service out this year; AT&T said it will provide more details about its Charlotte plans closer to launch.
Google first built a fiber network in Kansas City, has bought an existing one in Provo, Utah, and has started offering service in Austin, Texas. But the deployment hasn’t been problem-free: In Kansas City, some residents raised concern over decades-old trees that were cut down and gas leaks inadvertently caused by construction crews, according to news accounts.
Alan Fitzpatrick, a co-founder of Charlotte Hearts Gigabit, attended a tech convention called the Gigabit City Summit last week in Kansas City and said based on what he heard there, the service has meant more broadband options for customers, cheaper prices and more entrepreneurship.
For example, Fitzpatrick said, Mozilla, maker of Firefox browsers, hosts a competition in Kansas City for start-ups that develop apps for Google Fiber.
“The folks in Kansas City actually told me they are using this to help promote the city for attracting new companies and to help new companies attract employees,” Fitzpatrick said. “It becomes sort of a talent magnet.” Staff writer April Bethea contributed.