google_fiberGoogle Fiber has made a public-private partnership with a Huntsville Utilities open access network in order to bring ultra-high-speed gigabit broadband service to high-tech Huntsville, Alabama. A Google Fiber blog post offers only sketchy details, but suggests that Huntsville Utilities will be primarily or even fully responsible for network construction.

“Pending final approvals, Huntsville Utilities will design and construct its network,” the post reads. “Once the network is built, Google Fiber – or any other broadband provider – will be able to bring high-speed Internet service to the city.”

Huntsville Utilities Open Access Network
When Huntsville Utilities announced in 2014 that it was exploring building a gigabit capable network for the city, the goal was to bring fiber to every business and, eventually, to every home. (In addition the network was viewed as a means of enhancing the utility’s own communications capabilities as part of broader utility service modernization.) Huntsville Utilities said at that time that it wasn’t interested in being a broadband service provider and would seek parties interested in playing that role – and Google seized the opportunity to get involved.

The Huntsville Utilities open access network news is the latest example of Google exploring alternatives to taking full responsibility for gigabit network construction. Earlier this month the company announced it would use fiber previously installed by another entity as well as its own fiber to bring service to parts of Atlanta. And in another deal in Provo, Utah, Google purchased an existing network from the city.

The recent deals in Atlanta and Huntsville could indicate that the company is seeking less costly ways to deploy gigabit service in an effort to make gigabit deployments viable in more markets. It’s also possible that the company is seeking to pave further ground for other network operators to make similar high-speed deployments.

When Google Fiber first began deploying gigabit networks, the company was able to get city administrators to rethink how they approached permitting and other processes to help minimize deployment costs – and those processes now have been widely adopted by many communities, paving the way for numerous network operators to deploy gigabit service. Perhaps we will see similar results with regard to the new public/ private partnership models Google is exploring.

Google Fiber isn’t the only company rethinking how it approaches high-speed broadband deployments, however, nor is Huntsville Utilities the only utility company seeking ways to partner with a telecom service provider as a means of modernizing its own network and bringing high-speed broadband to a local community. Earlier this month, for example, a small rural Missouri utility cooperative and a small rural Missouri telco announced plans to share network construction tasks to bring gigabit service to parts of their local community.

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