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Google agrees to pay $3.8 million to Louisville to clean up failed fiber roadways

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Google has agreed to pay Louisville $3.84 million in order to restore roads and public rights-of-way following the tech giant’s exit from the fiber business in the city.

On Monday, the Louisville Metro Government (LMG) said the amount has been agreed to fulfill Google’s obligations under franchise agreements and local regulations, which state that rights-of-way must be restored should a service provider remove itself from the area.

Over the next 20 months, Google will make the payments to cover the cost of the removal of fiber cable and sealant from roads; milling and paving to restore walkways and road systems; and the removal of above-ground infrastructure.

The hefty bill relates to Google’s exit from the fiber market in the city, based in Kentucky. As reported by sister site CNET, Google Fiber performed an experiment in the area called “micro-trenching,” which was designed to speed up the deployment of gigabit cables in cities.

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Construction teams would dig trenches that were two inches deep and then they would lay the cables, covering the holes with a sealant that solidified after drying.

The overall goal was to deploy all the fiber required in the area in only five months. However, the trial ran into problems — including the heavy costs associated with laying fiber cable — causing the process to come to an abrupt halt. In addition, the sealant appears to not always performed well, as some of the cables came out of the trenches to lay, exposed, in the streets.

Given the time and expense it would cause to start Louisville again from scratch, Google instead decided to abandon the area altogether, potentially rather than cause even more disruption than laying the fiber created in the first place.

At the time, a Google spokesperson said the failure would be a lesson to the company, which would use the experience to improve deployment in other areas — such as Atlanta, Austin, Huntsville, and California.

The agreement between Google and Louisville relates to installations in Portland, Newburg, and the Highlands, where Google Fiber was on offer. In addition to paying for the repair bill, Google Fiber will also donate $150,000 to Louisville’s Digital Inclusion Fund, a project designed to close the digital divide for low-income families.

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“Infrastructure in neighborhoods and public properties affected by Google Fiber will look as good or better than they did before the company began construction, just as our franchise agreement stipulated,” said Grace Simrall, LMG’s Chief of Civic Innovation & Technology. “The city will diligently repair these roads and public spaces over the 20-month period.”

Google Fiber has now ceased operations in Louisville, following two months of free service to subscribers hoping to enjoy gigabit-speed broadband. Despite the failure and given the promise to repair roads damaged by the ill-fated project, however, there seems to be no bad blood between the tech giant and city officials.

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“It’s clear that Google Fiber’s presence in Louisville led other providers to step up and increase investment in Louisville, and that was good news for consumers everywhere,” Simrall said. The LMG chief added that Google’s donation to Louisville’s digital initiative was appreciated.

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