A recently-announced partnership between city leaders in Huntsville, Alabama and Google Fiber points to a promising new model for ensuring greater access to high-quality broadband Internet. This new collaboration will see the City of Huntsville build out and own a fiber network while leasing dark fiber capacity to Google Fiber to provide gigabit-speed Internet to city residents. The plan has its origins in March of 2015, when the City of Huntsville along with their municipal utility, Huntsville Utilities, unveiled plans to build a local fiber network that could bring gigabit speeds to residences, businesses (large and small) and provide a fiber backbone for local research institutes to use. The RFI stated that the City would be interested in discussing multiple forms of partnership, including “cost-sharing, infrastructure leasing, and profit-sharing arrangements.”

Huntsville Utilities, which is owned by the City of Huntsville, is building its own fiber network throughout the City. The network is being built independently of Google Fiber, for purposes associated with the electric utility business. Once the network is built, Google Fiber will lease dark fiber on the network in order to offer its services to customers. There will be fiber available for other uses, including by Huntsville Utilities and other ISP providers, or any third party.

Announced today, the new arrangement allows the city to fund and own the physical fiber infrastructure, while leasing dark fiber to Google, allowing the city to focus on maintaining and building out the network while delegating service provision to private operators. We’re excited to see how this new partnership model will help connect more people and businesses to high-quality Internet!