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Council panel reveals early list of Google Connections finalists

Thursday, November 14, 2013 by Michael Kanin

Members of the Council’s Emerging Technology and Telecommunications Committee Wednesday offered a preliminary list of finalists for the Google Community Connections program. If eventually approved by the full Council — and OK’d by Google – those entities that remain on the list will receive Google’s ultra-high speed Internet service at no cost.


City Telecommunications and Regulatory Affairs Officer Rondella Hawkins told Council members that Google is preparing to roll out its fiber service in the middle of next year.


Council Members Laura Morrison and Chris Riley signed off on the preliminary list Wednesday. It includes such cultural institutions as the Paramount and Stateside theaters, KLRU and the Mexic-Arte Museum; educational organizations such as Southwest Key, St. Edward’s University, Huston-Tillotson University; and a host of public schools, parks facilities and other public buildings. Council Member Bill Spelman, the third member of the committee, was away on city business.


Morrison and Riley noted that official Council approval of the sites will come as part of next week’s agenda. Google will also have to approve the list, based on the tech firm’s ability to provide service for the regions of the city where the prospective Community Connections facilities are located.


“There were many, many pages of applications, and lots and lots of exciting potential innovative (ideas) for service,” said Morrison. “I just think – I am certainly open to discussion on if folks want to make a change – that this turns Austin into a really large laboratory for exciting, creative development.”


Hawkins told Riley and Morrison that the city received more than 310 site applications for the Community Connections program. To that, Riley noted that “part of our interest here…in ensuring the greatest number of people get served as soon as possible.”


Should Google strike any of the sites selected by Council members, the committee would chime in on the selection of alternate facilities.


Google Fiber is the company’s attempt to expand into the market of Internet service delivery. Google first rolled out the program in Kansas City and Provo, Utah. AT&T and Time Warner Cable have also planned to invest in ultra-fast Internet infrastructure.


In both Provo and Kansas City, prices for the service run $70 a month for gigabit Internet only service and $120 a month for Internet and cable television. Alternately, residents of Kansas City can avoid monthly charges and get Internet only for a $300 one-time “construction fee” – however, residents who chose that plan do not have access to the Google high-speed version of web service.


Provo residents must pay a $30 construction fee for connection. They then have access to the three basic plans shared by Kansas City residents.

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