Google Fiber Hits the ‘Silicon Slopes’

Google Fiber’s next target city is Provo, Utah, and the approach it’s taking to connect with the “Silicon Slopes” sheds light on a model that could give Google Fiber a way to expand the reach of its 1 Gigabit per second broadband platform without having to shell out big bucks.

Rather than building a network from scratch — as it’s doing now in Kansas City and will be doing soon in Austin, Texas — Google Fiber has instead proposed to purchase iProvo, an existing fiber-based network owned by the city.

If the city approves the sale on April 23, Google plans to launch services there by late 2013, setting up a battle with Comcast and CenturyLink. Provo, another techsavvy city, has a population of 115,321 and about 33,212 housing units, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

Google Fiber’s proposal won’t require much cash to change hands. Google has promised to upgrade the iProvo network to 1 Gigabit per second, complete network construction (for free) to ensure that every home on the existing network can connect to Google Fiber’s services. Google Fiber will also throw in a free, 5 Mbps Internet service to all homes on the network (customers must spring for a $30 activation fee) for up to seven years. Google Fiber will also hook up 25 local public institutions such as schools, hospitals and libraries.

In exchange for all of those promises and incentives, “we’ll exchange $1 to close the agreement,” a Google Fiber spokeswoman told Multichannel News via email.

Provo started to build its own municipal fiber network in 2004, but has been seeking a buyer for about 18 months. The iProvo network is currently operated on a wholesale basis by a Utah-based company called Veracity Networks.

iProvo isn’t the only municipal fiber network in Utah that might flirt with Google Fiber. The Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency (UTOPIA), a fiber network owned by 11 cities, has been mired in financial troubles. The iProvo deal with Google Fiber is “music to our ears,” UTOPIA executive director Todd Marriott told The Salt Lake Tribune last week.

“Ultimately, UTOPIA will be vindicated in showing that this is a critical infrastructure,” Marriott told the newspaper.

UTOPIA has discussed selling its network or forming new partnerships, but none of those talks have involved Google, the newspaper said.