It's On in Provo: Municipal Council Approves Google Fiber Buy

As expected, the Provo Municipal Council unanimously approved the measure regarding bringing Google to town to take over the city’s struggling iProvo fiber network. Google will retrofit the network for its Google Fiber service, which will make the relatively small town of Provo just the third locale with the gigabit Internet and TV service.

The Salt Lake Tribune grabbed some more specific details, including confirming that Provo is selling the network to Google for the ceremonial price of one dollar. Google will offer its 5Mbps Internet service to Provo residents for free for 7 years and also ensure that all homes have access to the service. (Whether that means that Google will waive the $300 construction fee or not remains to be seen.)

Provo Municipal Council
Matt Dunne of Google and Provo Mayor John Curtis (Credit: Salt Lake Tribune)

The council snagged one truly excellent promise from Google: the company must deliver its gigabit service for free to public schools, recreation centers, and nearly two dozen other public institutions.

Unfortunately, that’s the only savvy financial decision that Provo’s council finagled here, apart from the obvious long-term benefits of having Google Fiber in town. Provo’s residents still have to pay of the initial debt of the old network’s construction--some $3.3 million per year for the next 12 years--as well as $722,000 to upgrade equipment so that government operations already using the fiber network can continue to use it when Google makes upgrades. There’s also going to be an embarrassing $500,000 fee for a civil engineering firm to sort out where the fiber cables were buried, because the original construction company didn’t bother to keep track.

Google will lease its network to the city for 15 years. In that time, the city should pay off its fiber debt and start feeling the full benefits of Google Fiber without the old debt hanging over its head.