Google expanding fiber cities

Atlanta suburbs among potentials



ATLANTA – Technology giant Google announced last week a list of cities it is in talks with to expand its burgeoning fiber optic network.

Google already has set up fiber cities in Kansas City, Mo., Provo, Utah and Plano, Texas.

Among the metro areas the tech giant is considering to expand its network are San Jose, Calif., Phoenix, Ariz., Charlotte and Raleigh, N.C., Nashville, Tenn., and Atlanta.

Specifically in Atlanta, Google is looking at the suburban cities of Avondale Estates, Brookhaven, College Park, Decatur, East Point, Hapeville, Sandy Springs and Smyrna.

Noticeably absent from this list are any from North Fulton, especially Alpharetta, which bills itself as the “Technology City of the South,” due not only to the concentration of tech businesses within its borders, but also the presence of the fiber optic cables that Google is hyping.

Alpharetta’s absence was noticed by Mayor David Belle Isle.

“We should have been considered,” Belle Isle said. “We are working on starting a conversation with them.”

While he said he was uncertain of the criteria Google used in their selection process, Belle Isle said Alpharetta still has much to offer the technology giant.

“We still have the most extensive fiber optic network in Georgia and the Southeast,” he said, however, getting that word out has proven tricky.

“One of the things we have not been good at in the past is telling our story. People don’t know there are 600 [technology] companies in Alpharetta. We are starting to change that.”

Helping with that change is Avalon. The mixed-use construction has made a selling point of tapping into Alpharetta’s fiber optic system, making the development what it says will be the first fully fiber optic community in the South.

Fiber Internet can be up to 100 times faster than basic broadband. As the Web has become faster, it has also become more useful — activities like streaming movies, storing files online, video chatting and more were all enabled by broadband connections over a decade ago, and the next chapter of the Web will run on even faster speeds.

Alpharetta is crisscrossed with such fiber optic cables.

In the early 1990s, Atlanta was gearing up for the 1996 Olympics. The city was rejuvenating itself to welcome thousands of athletes and tourists, as well as the eyes of the world. At that time, the Internet was beginning to really show its promise as a data mover. Fiber optic cables were extended from the central data hubs of the Northeast into the city to provide for the burgeoning digital age. Alpharetta happened to be the gateway where many of these cables intersected.

Many of Alpharetta’s main roads have fiber optic cables running beneath them, which local tech and data firms take advantage of.

Belle Isle minced no words about how important the cables have been to his city’s development.

“The fiber optic cable was the catalyst to the way we are now,” he said.

Google expects to have a decision on which cities will make the final cut by the end of the year.

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