Council to OK Google 'network hut' agreement

May. 09, 2014 @ 05:40 PM

City Council members appear likely to support an agreement with Google that would enable the California company to place four or five equipment huts on city property to serve a potential gigabit-speed Internet system.
The deal promises the city $2 a square foot in annual rent for use of the sites, which are likely to be about 1,400 square feet each. The two sides will cooperate in choosing where exactly they will go.
Each hut is likely capable of serving about 20,000 households, Deputy City Manager Wanda Page said.
The agreed-on rent is a price “that struck our real-estate division as reasonable,” Deputy City Manager Bo Ferguson added, explaining it didn’t have a comparable sort of rental agreement to go on.
But the price is one the same officials in nearby Cary will charge Google, the Cary Town Council having approved a similar deal Thursday.
Durham’s council is scheduled to vote on its version of the deal May 19. Members put it on the meeting’s consent agenda, which means they expect to act without further debate.
The deal is one of the things officials are trying to put in place to convince Google to choose Durham and, more broadly, the Triangle as a site for a new “Google Fiber” system.
Gigabit service promises download speeds much faster than existing cable or DSL networks, fast enough to serve the needs of online video services without interruption or other hiccups.
The company is already working on networks in Austin, Texas, Provo, Utah, and Kansas City, Missouri, and is sizing up 34 other communities as expansion possibilities. In North Carolina, the Triangle and the Charlotte area are the prime candidates.
An announcement on the company’s decision could come by the end of the year.
The Google “network hut” deal is the second related to gigabit-speed service the council’s fielded this spring. Members approved a broader agreement with AT&T last month that prospectively cleared the way for that company to begin installing a high-speed network of its own next year.
City officials have made it clear they’re not interested in giving any one network provider exclusive rights to set up shop in Durham.
Both AT&T and Google have sought assurances that city officials will process permit applications quickly.
Like Public Works Director Marvin Williams last month in reference to the AT&T deal, Ferguson acknowledged that the pledge means a lot of work for city officials if the new network comes to pass.
“The challenge if Google were to select Durham is they are coming and would want to build [it] all at once,” Ferguson said.