Politics

The Louisville Metro Council will soon consider measures to streamline the process for bringing ultra-fast Internet access, including a plan to condense the franchise-granting authority of Jefferson County’s suburban cities for communication services into one entity.

The council’s public works committee approved the measures in a unanimous vote on Tuesday. They now go to the full council for consideration.

City leaders have said ultra-fast Internet access can boost Louisville’s economy. Google Fiber is considering Louisville for its service, and AT&T has announced plans to operate ultra-fast Internet in the city.

One of the measures would condense the franchise-granting authority of 83 cities in Jefferson County into a single group. If approved, the local governments and Louisville Metro would together bid and award the telecommunication franchise for ultra-fast Internet access.

Under the proposal, Louisville Metro government would administer the bidding process.

Ted Smith, the city’s chief of civic innovation, said the measure’s approval would be a landmark moment in the push to bring faster Internet to Louisville. He said without the agreement, companies would need to negotiate with each of the 83 cities to get a franchise for Internet infrastructure installation.

“This is an item that’s a real sticking point for anybody that’s trying to deploy fiber across our city,” he said. “Getting this behind us is an important step.”

Once an agreement is struck, the suburban cities would again need an agreement to award the franchise, he added.

Smith said the effort to bring all the separate cities in Jefferson County together on this issue has been in the works since November. None of the suburban cities voted against the measure, he said.

The second action by the committee aims to streamline access to utility poles in the city’s right-of-ways.

Smith said the move will enable anyone needing to attach new cabling to a utility pole to rearrange existing cables without notice. The current process of rearranging cabling on utility poles can take up to six months and requires input from numerous utility companies, Smith said.

Councilman Bill Hollander, a Democrat from District 9, said such action is recommended practice to encourage ultra-fast Internet providers to invest in cities.

“I think it will reduce disruption and inconveniences on our streets and make the whole process faster, and make the community more broadband-ready,” he said.

Smith said the city is in the “homestretch” of bringing ultra-fast Internet access to Louisville residents.

“There aren’t many things beyond this,” he said.

Gigabit connectivity would bring Internet connection speeds up to 100 times faster than what is currently offered in Louisville, Smith said.

Google Fiber has yet to fully commit to bring its service to Louisville.

The company announced last year it would begin exploring the feasibility of coming to Louisville.  AT&T also announced last year they would begin work to bring ultra-fast Internet to the city.

Jacob Ryan is a reporter for the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.