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Emails provide insight on Google Fiber recruitment

A Google Fiber service truck parked on a Kansas City street.
A Google Fiber service truck parked on a Kansas City street. The Kansas City Star

Through a public records request, the Observer obtained emails city officials exchanged as they were working to land Google Fiber for Charlotte, starting in February 2014. Here are some highlights:

Beyond Charlotte

In April 2014, Phil Reiger, a Charlotte official spearheading the Google Fiber project for the city, asked a Google representative a question he had been hearing from many in the Charlotte community: Did the company plan to expand beyond the city limits?

The Google representative, Ashley Kroh, said the company was only focusing on the 34 cities on its shortlist. “It is too soon to begin discussions on expansion,” she said.

Competition

In April 2014, the Charlotte general manager for TW Telecom, which provides phone and internet services to business customers, wrote a letter to Charlotte Mayor Dan Clodfelter urging “consistent, fair and non-discriminatory terms” for all providers building broadband networks.

“Special treatment or more favorable terms provided to one particular provider will necessarily disrupt the continuing development of the competitive market...,” Ken Chinchar wrote.

Jeff Stovall, the city’s chief information officer, shared the letter with other officials and said he spoke with Chinchar to relate “that we intend to create a process in which other carriers could participate.”

Law firm conflict

In April 2014, a representative of the Moore & Van Allen law firm, which was assisting Google in Charlotte, asked if Clodfelter was available for a meeting to “give him an overview of the proposed project.”

Deputy City Manager Ron Kimble responded to the request. “Since Mayor Clodfelter works for MVA, and MVA is representing Google, I believe that it would be a conflict of interest for him to meet with Google? Do you agree?”

Clodfelter in June 2014 moved to another law firm, Parker Poe.

Google Fiber concert

In June 2014, the leader of a Charlotte nonprofit that promotes entrepreneurship contacted Stovall to see if the city could provide one of its free rentals of the Charlotte Knights’ baseball stadium for a concert promoting Google Fiber.

Two Google representatives “really like the idea,” wrote Terry Cox, CEO of Business Innovation & Growth. Cox is also part of a group called Charlotte Hearts Gigabit that has promoted high-speed Internet in the city.

City officials provided information about the rentals, but the concert never took place. “We may wait until we’re closer to a ‘go live’ date for Google Fiber to do something like that,” Cox told the Observer.

Scope of the work

The emails provide more details on the scope of the work ahead. For example, Google will hire approximately 300 crews to complete the project, Reiger wrote in a June 2014 email.

The work planned by Google dwarfs the previous utility work done in the city. Google plans to install 6,000 miles of fiber, compared with 480 miles installed in the city from 2008 to 2014.

Google reception

The emails don’t reveal any concern over a private reception Google held for city officials in January that could have violated open meetings laws.

But Kimble, the deputy city manager, did check to make sure council members were sent to the correct location.

“Can we re-verify with Google to be doubly sure?” he wrote. “I would hate to direct Council members to the wrong place.”

Rothacker: 704-358-5170; Twitter: @rickrothacker

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