• Leaders want all Charlotte residents to have Google Fiber access

    By: Jim Bradley


    CHARLOTTE - For the last five months Google has been laying the groundwork for making Google Fiber available to every home and business in Charlotte. 

    Tuesday at a West Side forum, the company admitted getting low-income residents to sign on is expected to be a challenge.

    "We will reach out to the neighborhoods where we know we will have some challenges and where they are the most digitally divided," said Mary Ellen Player, Google Fiber's Charlotte operations manager.

    Google has come under scrutiny in Kansas City and Austin, Texas where its ultra-high speed Internet service is already up and running, and where the percentage of low-income subscribers lags middle and upper income neighborhoods. 

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    That's important because while Google says it will build infrastructure to cover the entire city of Charlotte, it will only actually connect its 1 gigabyte service to homes in neighborhoods where enough people sign up. 

    "We will do a lot but we can't do it all," Player said while answering questions at the breakfast forum off Oaklawn Avenue.  

    That leaves a big part of the burden of finding a solution for the digital divide with the city of Charlotte and local groups. City Councilman David Howard says that work is already beginning.

    "There's a partnership already with the city to start dealing with this issue early," Howard said. 

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    Howard believes high speed fiber connects will be a game changer for Charlotte but he and Google heard from a number of people today who want to make sure no one is left out. 

    West Charlotte resident Carlenia Ivory said "The affluent neighborhoods, they have the opportunity. But we want our neighborhood to also have this opportunity as soon as possible and make sure that we're not the last ones to have it."

    Google said it is still laying out exactly where its fiber lines will go. Player refused to answer questions from Eyewitness News but told the forum it will be at least 18 months before the first customers in Charlotte can use Google Fiber.

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