Google has announced that they will pay $3.84 million to the local government in Louisville, Kentucky in an attempt to fix failing infrastructure in the city. This comes after Alphabet (Google’s parent company) decided to abandon its gigabit broadband plans back in February. The problem? Google had already started “nano-trenching”, which means they had already started to place fiber cables under the ground. So this isn’t a payout because they pulled out the deal. This is actually a payout because they’ve destroyed the city’s infrastructure. I mean, that makes sense, doesn’t it?
The Louisville Metro Government will receive the money to focus on the areas that have sustained the most damage. This includes the Louisville neighborhoods of Portland, Newburg, and the Highlands. How bad is the damage? It was reported back in March that the project left miniature 2-inch deep trenches zig-zagging along the roads. Fiber cables are typically buried at least six inches underground, using a method called micro-trenching, but the nano-trenching of just two inches underground was an attempt to save money.
According to Louisville Metro Government’s Chief of Civic Innovation and Technology, Grace Simrall, the “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.” Which is great news, but if you know anything about public infrastructure projects, then you know how difficult it will be to just repair the holes made by the nano-trenching. Sure, you can simply fill in the hole and the infrastructure will be as good as new, but it won’t look as good or even remotely close to what it did before. And it will take approximately 20 months to repair the roads and public spaces. That’s almost two full years.
While I think it’s great that Google is paying for these repairs, but Google is getting off scot-free with this one. I mean, sure, they’re obligated to pay, per their agreement, but when push comes to shove it’s Louisville that has so much to do just to make these repairs. And what will happen if Louisville wants to put this kind of fiber back in somewhere in the future?
I have mentioned in some of my other posts, the challenge with infrastructure within a city. It might seem like it’s easy to move a stop light, or fix a water main that’s broken, but the truth is there are a lot of different services and utilities that need to be taken into consideration. In this case, the depth of the holes is shallow enough that it won’t affect that many, but consideration will still need to be given some of those. Hence why it’s going to take almost two years to fix. I guess Google should have considered this before they started the work? Or maybe they don’t care, given that they can throw some money at the problem and Louisville will have to fix it?
In an attempt to make amends, Google has indicated that they will also donate $150,000 to Louisville’s Digital Inclusion Fund, which includes refurbishing used computers for low income residents in Lousiville and providing discounted internet access. This would be in addition to the $3.84 million under their infrastructure agreement with Louisville.