Government & Politics

Google Fiber says it won’t sell service in Leawood

Google Fiber installed fiber-optic lines in Shawnee in August, but on Thursday the company said it will not be bringing the high-speed Internet service to Leawood.
Google Fiber installed fiber-optic lines in Shawnee in August, but on Thursday the company said it will not be bringing the high-speed Internet service to Leawood. The Kansas City Star

Google Fiber told prospective customers in Leawood on Thursday that it won’t build its network in the prosperous Johnson County suburb.

“We’ve been working hard to figure out how to make a fiber (optic) construction project work in Leawood,” the company said in an email to people who had registered to be future customers. “But we’ve found that it would require a much more difficult construction effort and schedule than planned. So unfortunately we won’t be bringing Google Fiber to Leawood.”

A company spokeswoman issued a nearly identical statement. It didn’t elaborate on what prompted the seller of ultra-fast Internet and TV service to back out of one of the most prosperous — and potentially lucrative — cities in the Kansas City market.

Leawood City Administrator Scott Lambers said an agreement the city signed with Google in August 2013 prohibits him from talking publicly about any discussions with the California company. He did confirm, however, that it was Google’s decision to pull out of Leawood.

Google has said it would only deploy its much-coveted network — it sells home customers Internet speeds typically available only to institutional customers at a much greater cost — where it can keep construction costs low.

Often that can mean easy access to utility poles, the fastest and cheapest way to string its fiber-optic lines into residential neighborhoods.

Although Google Fiber recently came to terms with Overland Park to build its network in that city, the agreement was delayed several months when some members of the City Council questioned the terms Google was demanding.

Even after the council agreed to the company’s original terms, Google waited several months before it would sign a pact with Overland Park. Many industry analysts saw that as a signal to cities looking to attract Google Fiber that resistance to its terms could easily nix a deal.

Google is currently looking at expanding to several markets across the country. It’s created what it calls a “checklist” for those municipalities. Much of that is a call for streamlining various permit processes and giving the company easy access to existing utility infrastructure — things such as utility poles or underground conduit.

To reach Scott Canon, call 816-234-4754 or send email to scanon@kcstar.com. Twitter: @ScottCanon.

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