Google Fiber has rolled out its internet service in Louisville’s West End, with its ultra-fast connection going for $70 per month.
City and company officials said that by starting the service in an economically distressed neighborhood, they were sending the message that they are serious about making sure that every resident in Louisville can take part in the information economy.
Google Fiber announced the start of its service Wednesday morning at Louisville Neighborhood House, a nonprofit at 201 N. 25th St. that helps people in the West End break out of the cycle of poverty. Google Fiber is providing the nonprofit with technology and internet service free of charge.
“Google Fiber, welcome to Louisville,” said Mayor Greg Fischer at a rollout ceremony, as members of the audience applauded and cheered.
Fischer said that for people to be able to flourish in the information age, they must have access to affordable, high-speed internet service.
“This is another major step,” he said.
The mayor also highlighted Google Fiber making the service available in a neighborhood that often does not come first.
Much of the history of the country, state and city were defined by institutional policies such as redlining, which excluded minorities from wealth building opportunities, Fischer said. Louisville leaders have recognized that history and have chosen to adopt policies to make sure that every resident has access to opportunities for success.
By helping Google Fiber to make sure that its high-speed service is available first in the West End, Fischer said the city is helping to “right a historical wrong.”
Councilwoman Cheri Bryant Hamilton, D-5, whose district includes the Neighborhood House, said the fiber rollout in the West End would help especially children who until now have not been able to get access to reliable, affordable, high-speed internet service.
“This is going to make a difference in the lives of families,” she said.
Pam Rice, the Neighborhood House’s executive director, agreed.
Until now, kids who have come to the nonprofit to do their homework often have lost parts of the work because of the spotty internet connection, she said. With the new high-speed service, which Google Fiber crews still were installing Tuesday, the students will no longer suffer those frustrations.
“That’s a big deal to them,” Rice said.
The service also will help the nonprofit’s teachers who use internet access for lesson planning, evaluations and other services, she said.
Rice said the roll out at Neighborhood House also will make high-speed internet service available to more of the area’s residents.
In recent weeks, as crews have worked on upgrading the center’s technology infrastructure, Rice said the neighborhood’s residents had talked with excitement about the arrival of Google Fiber.
“We can’t even imagine how much it’s going to change life for us,” Rice said.
She also thanked Google for installing the tech and providing the service free. She said the nonprofit would not have been able to provide the service otherwise.
City officials said that they provided no financial incentives to attract Google Fiber to Louisville, though they worked behind the scenes to make sure the tech giant chose Louisville as one of the areas for its fiber rollout and prodded company officials to make the service available as soon as possible.
Google Fiber officials said at five months between construction announcement and signups, it was its fastest fiber rollout yet. The service is also available in the Newburg and Strathmoor neighborhoods. For competitive reasons, a Google spokesman said that the company did not share how many households could access the service.
The spokesman also told Insider that it determines where in a city it rolls out the service based on a complex formula that includes data about network engineering, construction and market demand. That means an area with a projected high demand, but which is far away from existing infrastructure, may not be the first to get access to Google Fiber.
He also said social responsibility is part of Google’s DNA, and that includes making sure that everyone can have access to high-speed internet service. And, he said, an initial rollout in an economically distressed neighborhood also creates goodwill in the community.
The spokesman did not know if the company would make its high-speed service available free to some residents, as it has in other communities.
Gigabit service from AT&T has been available to more than 80,000 Louisville households and businesses for months. The company said it invested $250 million between 2014 and 2016 to deploy its fiber network, which is accessible by in parts of neighborhoods from Algonquin and Chickasaw to the Highlands. The service, which, like Google Fiber’s service, provides download speeds of 1,000 Mbps, costs $80, but bundling can lower the price to $70.