Google Fiber plans frustrate residents outside Charlotte

Amid the excitement over Google Fiber coming to Charlotte, residents outside the city are disappointed they’re not also in line for the superfast Internet service.

“I would love to see some real competition,” said Mint Hill resident Dan Van Atta. “I wish they would bring it to all of Mecklenburg County.”

On Tuesday, Internet giant Google officially announced that it was bringing its new service to four new metro areas: Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham, Atlanta and Nashville, Tenn. In Raleigh-Durham, the future service area includes seven communities, from Carrboro to Garner. And in Atlanta it’s a total of nine.

Asked about expansion outside the city limits on Tuesday, Google Fiber expansion director Jill Szuchmacher said: “Right now we’re focused on the city of Charlotte.”

That’s good news for Charlotte’s 793,000 residents if they are interested in the service. But that doesn’t help 200,000 more people who live outside the city in Mecklenburg County.

Google officials haven’t set a schedule for rolling out the service but have said it will take some time to deploy thousands of miles of fiber around the city. In other Google Fiber cities, the company offers Internet-only and Internet/TV packages.

Google Fiber got its start in 2010, when the Mountain View, Calif.-based company said it planned to build a superfast Internet network with speeds up to 100 times regular broadband. More than 1,100 communities applied, and Kansas City was the first metro area chosen, followed by Provo, Utah, and Austin, Texas.

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 networks. Charlotte city leaders submitted an application, and on Tuesday Google announced its latest selections.

Leaders of towns near Charlotte said Wednesday they weren’t in contact with Google, although some have had conversations with Charlotte officials. Some of the towns already have their own high-speed services.

“When we first heard about it awhile ago, I reached out to the city manager of Charlotte to see if we could be included,” Mint Hill Town Manager Brian Welch said. “The way it was explained to me was that this service was in such high demand, that Google was determining what markets they were willing to serve.”

Like Mint Hill, Huntersville also has reached out to Charlotte City Manager Ron Carlee to express the town’s interest in the service, Huntersville Mayor Jill Swain said in an email.

“Of course we have heard from our citizens about this!” Swain said. “We have expressed interest in being part of the picture, but we understand that this is an ongoing discussion and the specifics have yet to be determined.”

She urged residents to let Google know of their interest so the company can be “aware of the market potential.”

In Cornelius, there have not been any conversations with Google yet, Town Manager Anthony Roberts said, “but we’d like to have them in town.”

Pineville Town Manager Haynes Brigman, who also has not been contacted by Google, said the town provides its own high-speed Internet, television and telephone service to residents through a fiber network infrastructure. It can provide the same speed as Google plans to offer – 1 gigabit per second – if residents request it.

“No one has asked for it yet,” he said. “Not many businesses or homes have the equipment to handle it. But we have the infrastructure to provide that speed if requested.”

Likewise, Davidson and Mooresville co-own a telecommunications system called Mi-Connection that provides high-speed services to residents and businesses, Davidson Mayor John Woods said. But he welcomed the idea of additional competition if Google Fiber makes its way to the community.

“There’s a lot of sizzle around the announcement Google is making,” Woods said. “But it will take years to build.”

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