Shawnee approves agreement to bring Google Fiber to city
Google Fiber, the 1-gigabit Internet and television service that made its world premiere in a Kansas City, Kan., “fiberhood” last year, is planning to come to Shawnee.
But during a hastily called special meeting of the Shawnee City Council at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, a representative of Google Fiber couldn’t answer the big question: When?
Fielding that question from council members Michelle Distler and Neal Sawyer, Google Fiber Community Manager Rachel Hack said construction crews would be seen examining utility poles in the city during the next few months as the Google Fiber engineering team works on planning for the new Shawnee network. But a timeline for getting the service to residential end users is not yet available, she said.
Monday’s meeting was called to get the ball rolling through council approval of a network cooperation and services agreement with Google Fiber. The agreement, which Shawnee City Manager Carol Gonzales said she had been working on for five months, was approved by a 6-0 vote, with council members Dan Pflumm and Mike Kemmling absent from the meeting.
Google Fiber recently announced its plans to extend its new ultrafast Internet network into Johnson County, and Shawnee became the fifth Johnson County municipality to sign an agreement with the company. The first three were Westwood, Westwood Hills and Mission Woods in northeast Johnson County, which is close to Kansas City, Kan., and Kansas City, Mo., where the initial 180 fiberhoods are scheduled to be built out by the end of this year.
Olathe last month became the fourth Johnson County City to enter into an agreement with Google Fiber — a development that Shawnee Councilman Jeff Vaught said prompted “several emails from constituents” wanting to know if Shawnee would be passed over.
Shawnee resident Dan Wancura, the only person to speak during an opportunity for public comment at Monday’s meeting, said he had been preparing to sell his home and move to an existing Google fiberhood before he learned about the special council meeting through his homes association earlier Monday.
Wancura, who operates an electronic data interchange business from his home, said he had been looking for a home in Kansas City, Kan.’s Hanover Heights neighborhood, which became the world’s first fiberhood last year. But now that Shawnee has signed its agreement with Google Fiber, Wancura said he’ll stay put.
Similar to the pact Olathe signed with the company, the 10-year Shawnee agreement will waive Google Fiber’s permit fees and allow it to attach equipment to above-ground structures in the city and locate equipment huts on city-owned property. In exchange, Google Fiber will provide free broadband and Wi-Fi services to city facilities. In addition, the city will receive a 5 percent franchise fee on revenue Google Fiber generates from operation of its Shawnee network.
In the neighborhoods where Google Fiber already has been installed, the company is offering Internet and cablelike television service for $120 a month. The Internet download speeds are about 100 times faster than those of most residential broadband connections across the county, and the upload speeds are about 1,000 times faster.
That has led to a clustering of early-stage businesses within homes in the Hanover Heights fiberhood. Google Fiber did not intend for its initial installations to include businesses. But according to Matthew Marcus, chief technology officer for Local Ruckus LLC in Hanover Heights, companies like his “got in under the radar” because they’re located in structures that appear to be residences.
In response to a question from Vaught, Hack said she didn’t have a timeline for the availability of Google Fiber services for more traditionally located businesses. But she said the company was “working on a small to medium-size business product.”
In the meantime, Hack said, Google Fiber should still help “create jobs, grow local businesses and make Shawnee even stronger as it grows.”