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Dyana Bagby Posted by on September 18, 2017.

Google Fiber slows metro Atlanta rollout

The high-speed rollout of Google Fiber in metro Atlanta including Sandy Springs and Brookhaven has significantly stalled, although representatives say plans are still in the works to provide the internet service.

“Google Fiber is currently available in over 100 residential buildings in the metro Atlanta area and in several neighborhoods in the center of the city. We’re working hard to connect as many people as possible, and encourage people to sign up for updates on our website,” a Google Fiber spokesperson said.

Workers installed fiber-optic cables for Google Fiber along North Druid Hills Road in Brookhaven in July 2016. (File)

In Sandy Springs, however, permits to install the fiber-optic cable stopped six months ago.

“I’ve checked with our utilities manager and to date, Google has not provided any formal notice of delay,” said Sandy Springs spokesperson Sharon Kraun. “They halted their permits about six months ago. Restoration work continues, which ensures property where work was conducted is left in order.”

Brookhaven city officials say they are not sure when the service will be provided in the city.

“We continue to be in contact with Google Fiber. They have communicated that they are still very much committed to the Atlanta market including Brookhaven, but we do not know exactly when service will be offered,” city spokesperson Burke Brennan said.

Google Fiber’s quest to offer services in Brookhaven hit a roadblock dating back to 2015 shortly after the rollout was announced for metro Atlanta when the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals denied its request to build a utility hut in Parkside Park.

Google Fiber’s system requires a number of utility huts in central locations. In Brookhaven, the city had agreed to provide space for two huts in public parks. One is already built in Blackburn Park; the other was to be in Parkside Park, a narrow strip of green space running along Dresden Drive between Apple Valley Road and Parkside Drive.

But it turned out that the city was mistaken in thinking it owned a strip of land there, so that meant the Google Fiber hut had to be placed deeper into the park, much closer to a stream and Dresden Drive. The proximity to Dresden triggered community complaints about a fence at least 55 feet long front the street in a public park.

The first hut is apparently being used, but when and if a second hut will be needed is not known at this time, according to a Google Fiber spokesperson.

Google Fiber does continue to lease land from the city of Brookhaven for the Fiber hut in Blackburn Park. In addition to lease payments for the land, Google Fiber also maintains landscaping around the structure.

The city and Google Fiber did not respond to requests for how much the lease payments are by press time.

Former Brookhaven Mayor J. Max Davis at the announcement two years ago that the city was one of nine metro area communities where Google will begin providing high-speed Internet connections. (File)

The Google Fiber hut in Blackburn Park is currently being used for operational needs, but what that means exactly a Google Fiber spokesperson did not say. Plans are still in the works to use the Blackburn Park Fiber hut in the future to serve customers in the Brookhaven community.

Google Fiber announced in January 2015 that it was officially coming to Sandy Springs, Brookhaven, Atlanta, Avondale Estates, College Park, Decatur, East Point, Hapeville and Smyrna.

The nine cities were to work closely with Google to build a brand-new fiber-optic network capable of delivering gigabit speeds throughout the service areas. It appears building that fiber-optic cable network was more difficult than anticipated, resulting in the slow-down of getting the service to these cities.

Teri Anulewicz, the former mayor pro tem for the Smyrna City Council, wrote on georgiapol.com last month that Google Fiber representatives told Smyrna officials that the “construction project is a large, complicated infrastructure project, and they encountered more challenges than they expected in many markets” including metro Atlanta.

In July, Gregory McCray, the CEO of Google Access, which oversees Google Fiber, resigned following Google Fiber’s announcement in October 2016 it was stopping work in cities it was in talks with to bring their service.

The average American broadband speed is 11.5 megabits per second. In contrast, Google Fiber is expected to bring metro Atlanta residents access to gigabit internet connections up to 1,000 megabits per second.

Google Fiber internet plans cost either $50 or $70 a month; internet and TV plans combined cost $140 or $160 a month.

–John Ruch contributed