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A call this week for fiber Internet service providers to begin applying for franchise status marks the next step in Louisville’s quest to become a gigabit city.

Metro government officials on Sunday published an advertisement in The Courier-Journal opening the bidding process for telecommunications companies seeking public right-of-way access to install infrastructure needed to provide ultra high-speed Internet to residents.

Take notice, Google Fiber.

Qualifying companies will be awarded franchise status and could soon begin the more tangible process of dispatching crews to connect residents to the sought-after service.

“It’s a good sign,” said Ted Smith, the city’s chief innovation officer.

For months, Metro Council members and Mayor Greg Fischer’s office have been working to make fiber Internet connectivity widely available in Louisville.

The service is considered to be up to 100 times faster than what’s currently available and come at a lower cost to consumers, Smith said.

Last year, city officials announced they’d be working in tandem with Google Fiber representatives to examine the feasibility of bringing the tech giant’s specific service to Louisville. That announcement led AT&T to declare they, too, would soon work to offer ultra high-speed Internet to consumers here.

The added interest of AT&T is also drawing national attention to Louisville’s race to become a fiber city.

Shortly after the Metro Council approved a “one-touch make-ready” policy — creating a streamlined process for fiber Internet installation — AT&T filed a federal lawsuit against the city, alleging the council overstepped its jurisdiction by attempting to regulate utility infrastructure.

The move by AT&T could help the telecommunications provider get a jumpstart on Google Fiber and other potential fiber Internet competitors, said Jason Hiner, global editor-in-chief of TechRepublic.

He said it could also set a precedent for Google Fiber’s future expansion.

“It’s a pretty important test case,” he said. “For the future of Internet in the U.S., it has pretty huge implications.”

But Smith said in Louisville, every step to make the city fiber-ready has been considered. And, he added, the franchise bidding process is proof the process is moving forward.

“I think we’re moving closer to having more choices and more cost-effective Internet,” he said.

There is no limit on the number of companies that can apply for the franchise status, Smith said. There is also no limit on the number of companies the city can award franchise status, he added.

Smith said he’s hoping for a handful of companies to show interest, including Google Fiber.

The bidding process is unique in this case due to a council-approved measure allowing Louisville Metro to seek applications on behalf of all 80-some suburban cities in Jefferson County. That effort is designed to make the bidding process more efficient.

The Metro Council and the governing bodies of the other cities will need to come to another, similar agreement when it comes time to actually award the franchises, Smith said.

Applications will be accepted until the end of the month.

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