The Newest Battleground Over Gigabit Internet: Portland

Google Fiber might roll out in Portland soon, but on Tuesday, CenturyLink announced plans to begin building its own high-speed network.

Portland, Oregon: Home of Nike, crafty things you can stuff into mason jars, and, maybe soon, a budding war over blazing-fast gigabit Internet.

In June, the City Council voted to approve a potential Google Fiber rollout in select Portland neighborhoods, a project which would cost Google $300 million if it decides to add Portland to its list of 34 U.S. cities that will host Fiber, which offers Internet speeds 100 times faster than average broadband. But today we learned that CenturyLink, another broadband provider in the area, plans on installing its own fiber-optic service through the next year. The Oregonian reports:

CenturyLink announced early Tuesday morning that it plans a broad rollout of fiber-optic service to Portland through next year, bringing ultra-fast "gigabit" service to select neighborhoods across the city. …

Unlike Comcast, though, CenturyLink and Google Fiber won't serve the whole city. They'll pick neighborhoods where demand is greatest, and they have the best chance of recouping the huge cost of their network upgrade (the city estimates Google's investment would total $300 million), potentially leaving parts of Portland behind.

Portland was actually one of Google's first choices for a Fiber rollout, but the company instead opted for Kansas City, where it has faced its fair share of complaints from locals. From the Kansas City Star:

Homeowners complain of workers crossing their properties without notice--something Google said it tells contractors not to do. Some residents reached out to City Hall after their lawns were damaged, buried sprinklers were busted or water, telephone, cable TV, electrical or gas lines were cut.

"You just wouldn’t believe what a nightmare this has been for me," said Mary Jo Kaifer, who lives in the Amber Meadows neighborhood in Clay County. "They're doing a pretty darn crummy job."

Despite the hurdles, high-speed broadband providers like Google and CenturyLink are putting pressure on the No. 1 and No.2 cable providers, Comcast and Time Warner Cable--which are in the midst of a merger, despite being the most loathed companies in America--to improve their services. Portland could become a fertile petri dish for the coming battle to provide customers with gigabit Internet as Google Fiber rolls out in more cities.

[Portland Sign: Dave Newman via Shutterstock]

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