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Council gives Google Fiber unanimous approval

2013-04-24T00:32:00Z 2013-08-16T06:23:35Z Council gives Google Fiber unanimous approvalGenelle Pugmire - Daily Herald Daily Herald
April 24, 2013 12:32 am  • 

PROVO -- Those weren't gunshots riddling the Provo municipal council chambers Tuesday night. No, it was the sound of confetti poppers and residents clanging glasses filled with non-alcoholic champagne. They were toasting the approval of three resolutions giving Mayor John Curtis the nod to sign the 213 page agreement making Provo a Google Fiber city. It also gave Google Fiber full ownership of the city's fiber network once known as iProvo.

Not everyone was celebrating though. During the public hearing portion of the meeting, council attorney Brian Jones took the stand and acknowledged the city had received a letter Monday from CenturyLink objecting to the sale and asking for the vote to be delayed by 30 days. That would give the city time to fulfill a large and expensive Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA) request from the company, and to let them object to the process of the negotiation.

"CenturyLink feels they have been treated unfairly," Jones said. "They feel they were excluded from the process."

For the next several minutes Jones did his due diligence in explaining the council's reasons why they feel CenturyLink has no merit in its arguments.

"CenturyLink responded to the RFQ but never responded to the RFP," Jones said. He noted the city continued to contact them on several occasions beginning in 2010 and they did not respond. Three weeks after the RFP closed they still contacted CenturyLink to see if they had any intent, with no response. As late as last November there was still contact, with no response.

Other than that fly in the Google ointment, the only other major concern was making sure residents would have their right to privacy. Michael Slinger, director of business operations for Google Fiber, assured residents privacy was of great concern to them.

"Protecting data is important to Google. Our privacy policy is online for anyone to read. We never share or sell privately identified data."

Jones added, "of all issues emphasized during the negotiations, privacy was one of the top issues."

Curtis also introduced new information and obligations that had not been discussed during the initial excitement of last week. There will be a need to spend some money. For one, the map on where the fiber conduits are actually laid is not available and it may take some guessing at a few locations as to what side of the street the fiber backbone is under. There is also an agreement the city will have control of the fiber to the schools and the city operations. Money has already been set aside from the telecom fund to take care of those needs. An insurance policy will also be needed to protect the city from the unknown. The total cost for city outlay will be approximately $1.7 million.

Curtis and Google representatives have held eight town meetings to answer all kinds of questions and they intend to have more.

Another option not yet ready to be discussed, but one of great interested to downtown business owners, is the hope that Google can provide some kind of package to businesses. According to Curtis, the main goal to get every residence connected. But Google has taken the business requests under advisement and is looking at options.

Once, iProvo was considered a millstone around Provo's neck. But Curtis and others did take time out to thank former council members and particularly former Mayor Lewis Billings for having the insight to what the future technological needs of the city were going to be.

Royce Van Tassell, director of the Utah Taxpayers Association, added it's the best deal that could be had. Given the situation, this is a quantum leap beyond what the city was dealing with. He also admonished them to continue talking to the taxpayers. Orem city council member Hans Andersen said, "I came to the meetings to covet. I think this is great."

The kudos and back pats went on through the meeting from council and residents and non-residents.

In a show of camaraderie Councilman Hal Miller suggested the three senior council members, Rick Healey, Laura Cabanilla and Sterling Beck, be the ones to make the three resolution motions attached to the Google agreement. All were approved unanimously.

genelle-pugmire
-- Genelle Pugmire covers Provo City, Provo School District, Orem City, UDOT’s I-15 CORE Project. She also tackles variety of other topics including business features.
Read more from Genelle Pugmire here.

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