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Four companies are seeking public right-of-way access to install the infrastructure needed to bring ultra high-speed internet to Louisville.

Last month, Metro government officials opened the bidding process for telecommunications companies interested in gaining franchise status. The four companies that applied are Davey Holdings, LLC; Goff Network Technologies – Kentucky, Inc.; Shelby Communications, LLC and Google Fiber, Kentucky, LLC., according to city officials. The bidding closed at the end of March.

The companies eventually awarded the franchise status will soon be allowed to dispatch crews to begin connecting residents to the sought-after service. AT&T has perpetual franchise status to work in the public right of way, said Ted Smith, Louisville’s chief innovation officer.

The bidding process in this case was unique due to a Metro Council-approved measure allowing Metro government to seek applications on behalf of all 80-some suburban cities in Jefferson County. It’s an effort designed to make the bidding process more efficient, Smith said.

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 added.

He expects that to happen in the coming weeks.

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.”

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