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Google Fiber Franchise - Background

FAQs about the Google Fiber Network and additional background information.
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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the current status of possible deployment of the Google Fiber Network in the City?

City of Portland and Google negotiators have agreed on the terms of a proposed franchise to deploy Google’s high-speed fiber network in the City.  This franchise is now moving forward for consideration by the Portland City Council on May 7.  However, Google has not yet made a final decision to deploy its gigabit fiber network in the Portland region.

What is a franchise and why is a franchise with Google necessary?

A franchise is basically just a long term contract between the City and an entity wishing to use City streets.  The franchise spells out terms and conditions for such use (accounting for transportation needs, repair, maintenance, insurance, etc.) to protect the rights of the City and the public as well as the entity.

Is the City’s proposed franchise with Google a cable franchise?

No.  The proposed franchise is a 10-year agreement for deployment of Google’s fiber network. When the system is deployed and activated, Google will be providing commercial access to its state-of-the art fiber network for a variety of high-speed two-way communications services and applications, known and unknown, including but not limited to video and data services utilizing the Internet. As proposed by Google, the system will not be providing cable television or telephone services as those terms are defined under federal law.

What public benefits will be provided under the proposed franchise?

Google has agreed to provide a variety of significant public benefits above and beyond paying standard City franchise fees.  Direct benefits include plans for up to 3 free public WiFi nodes during the term of the agreement, complimentary gigabit connections to qualifying community organizations for up to 10 years, and a free basic broadband service (upon payment of a 1-time installation fee) for up to 7 years in so-called ‘fiberhoods’.  Google has additionally agreed to interconnect the fiber system to other public systems used by Portland citizens and institutions, in order to facilitate carriage of public, education and government (“PEG”) cable access channels and institutional (“I-Net”) connections, e.g. to libraries and schools. In addition to direct benefits, the City expects substantial indirect benefits to the community as a result of the substantial investment, competition and innovation Google will bring to thePortland area.  The experience of other cities is that such competition and innovation benefit the entire community in terms of jobs, lower rates, betters service and a boost to economic development in a global communications marketplace.

Why is the City’s proposed agreement with Google not the same as local franchise agreements with cable operators such as Comcast and Frontier?  

Because the agreement with Google is not a cable franchise.  As defined by federal law, Google will not be offering or providing cable television services in Portland.  Between direct public benefits provided under the franchise (e.g. for free basic broadband, free connections to community organizations, public WiFi, connections to PEG and I-Net, etc.) and indirect public benefits (investment, economic development, and competitive choice that may improve services and lower prices), the overall public benefits are commensurate with the kinds of public benefits available under local cable franchises for many years.

Is Google’s technology state-of-the art and an advantage in a global marketplace?

Yes. High-speed, symmetrical gigabit+ fiber optic connectivity for residents and businesses is the world standard, and the USA (along with the Portland region) is by most measures behind the rest of the world. The City has spent many years preparing and planning for the kind of state-of-the art fiber technology Google will build in Portland.  The City’s Broadband Strategic Plan was a material inducement to attracting Google’s interest in Portland.

I understand Google will only build some neighborhoods.  How will that benefit me if I don’t reside in an area Google will serve?

Once Google makes a decision whether to proceed with deployment, Google has committed to building out as much of the Portland region as possible, provided a critical mass of residents have requested the service. Google’s announced interest in serving Gresham, Beaverton, Tigard, Hillsboro and Lake Oswego, in addition to Portland, is evidence of Google’s overall commitment.  Portland will work with Google as it proceeds with the buildout.  We hope to encourage as widescale a deployment as possible.  But even citizens in neighborhoods not directly reached by Google, at least in the early going, will benefit from Google’s build out due to the availability of indirect benefits such as increased services by community organizations, public WiFi, the likelihood of cost savings due to the introduction of competition in the marketplace, and economic development and jobs arising from Google’s investment here.

Google Fiber City Checklist

Google Fiber Press Conference 

Response to Google Checklist

Google Fiber Franchise Testimony


Community Technology Utilities Office