Google's KC plan for warp-speed Internet hits snag

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Google's plans to launch a super-speed Internet project in Kansas City, Kan., have hit a snag because of questions about where and how to hang its wires and what fees or installation costs may be required.

Google announced nine months ago that it hoped to begin service on its gigabit-per-second Internet connections to Kansas City, Kan. by the first quarter of this year. But the company is still working out the details of where to install the fiber optics, The Kansas City Star reported (http://bit.ly/wy28eI).

Google has declined to comment on the issue and hasn't publicly acknowledged any significant delays in the project. Mayor Joe Reardon says the project hasn't fallen behind schedule.

When Google announced the project last spring, the company said it would begin signing up its first customers in the fourth quarter of 2011 and light up its service in the first quarter of this year. But it has not begun installing the fiber optic network and has yet to sign up any customers.

"We still don't have an approval of the agreement," said David Mehlhaff, a spokesman for the Kansas City Board of Public Utilities "Within the next week or two we ought to be able to hammer out the final details. We're moving forward."

Google faces two choices: Pay the market rates for stretching its fiber optic lines much as AT&T and Time Warner Cable do in the space reserved for telecommunications; or shoulder the costs and complications of threading those same strands amid the electrical supply space.

Allowing Google use the space next to the power lines would run counter to the guidelines set by Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in the National Electrical Safety Code for "practical safeguarding of persons during the installation, operation, or maintenance of electric supply and communication lines."

That code states that any communication or nonelectrical supply lines should be at least 40 inches below the power supply.

Still, it's not uncommon for utilities to sanction telecommunication lines in supply space on utility poles.

The apparent issues for Google in Kansas City, Kan., have not been a problem for Google's similar project in neighboring Kansas City, Mo., where the company also hashed out an agreement dozens of pages long with Kansas City Power & Light.

The idea that Google might nestle its fiber optic lines in the electric supply space, said KCP&L spokesman Chuck Caisley, was a "nonstarter."

In fact, discussions over precisely where Google would be allowed to place its wires on KCP&L poles drove the protracted talks that took so much longer than in Kansas City, Kan.

"We did everything we could to have a defined, streamlined process where it's very specific about the rights and responsibilities of all the parties," Caisley said.


Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com

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