Council members expressed concern Tuesday about some unusual requests from Google as it proposes the logistics for building its high-speed Google fiber network in Mountain View.
The city's largest employer is proposing a relatively inexpensive and fast Internet service for Mountain View residents which is already being rolled out in Kansas City and Provo, Utah. While it sounds like a nice idea, council members weren't so pleased with a number of requests Google has made for the network as its proposal was laid out by city staff Tuesday, including a rigid timeline, a potentially unfair process for determining where to build the network, numerous "box" structures around town, and a request to submit "plans with less detail than normally required" for such a project, such as "no site specific traffic-control plans."
"This is a 'take it or leave it' approach, rather than saying, 'Let's work together, tell us what your concerns are,' and come up with a mutually acceptable solution," said council member Jac Siegel said of Google. "I don't like their modus operandi at all."
After wrestling with the possible consequences, the council voted 6-0 with Margaret Abe-Koga absent to move ahead with the project, and have city staff respond to a 17-page checklist Google wants by May 1. With 33 other cities doing the same thing, Google may or may not decide to build the network, negotiations for which were part of an announcement that Google would turn off most of its free WiFi system in Mountain View, leaving only an improved downtown setup.
"If the City Council decided to pass on fiber in MV, there would be hell to pay with residents," said council member Mike Kasperzak, who blamed the city's dismal Internet service on a lack of competition. AT&T happened to announce this week that it would roll out a similar service in Mountain View soon, among other places.
Google Fiber could bring residents a speed similar to what most enjoy now (5 megabyte a second) for no monthly fee (Comcast now charges anywhere from $30 a month to more than $70 for that) but there would be a one-time $300 construction fee. Ultra-fast Internet (1 gigabyte per second) would cost $70 a month or $120 a month if it includes TV services. One resident complained at the meeting about suffering from Comcast's "terribly slow Internet" for seven years.
It was also revealed that if Google follows practices in Provo or Kansas City, Mountain View would be divided into "fiber-hoods" of 200 to 250 residents, said Mayor Chris Clark. The fiber-hoods that have residents that speak up in public meetings (in Mountain View, that has traditionally been neighborhoods of homeowners) will get access to the new Internet service first, Clark said.
It was unclear whether that would mean whole apartment complexes, homes and streets could go without Google fiber if property owners didn't act in time. City Manager Dan Rich said he believed apartment complexes would see an "all or nothing" situation but Clark disagreed, saying the service would be run to every complex and that residents could then choose to use it, like cable access now. A Google representative wasn't there to answer which scenario was correct.
"The fact that Google isn't here tonight makes me wonder if this is worthwhile pursuing," said council member John Inks.
It is expected that Google will install up to three "network huts" around town to distribute the "network ring" that will run around the city. Each of the windowless, 1,400-square-foot huts would go on yet-to -be selected piece of public land, which Google would lease (Google wants the lease agreements in advance, though no sites have been selected). There would also be about 100 smaller network boxes placed along the city's streets, which are silent, require no electricity and could be painted different colors. Google would also run most of the network on overhead wires, except on streets where utilities are underground, said public works director Mike Fuller.
"I always have concern about big boxes and endless wires hanging from our poles," said council member Ronit Bryant.
Google has said "this is ideal," Jensen said of their entire proposal, but "if there is something we can't meet or is unreasonable to let them know. It hasn't been an all-or-nothing process."
Council candidate Jim Neal said "I can't believe the city is (considering Google's proposal) for one second. In Provo (Google) cut down trees and ruptured a gas line. We are going to have stumps allover Mountain View if they get their way."
The project may be subject to California's environmental law, CEQA, which could delay the project if an environmental impact report is required.