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Santa Clara City Observer: Dec. 16, 2015

Google Fiber Coming to Santa Clara

After two years of waiting, the suspense is over. Google has given Santa Clara for building a citywide, ultra high-speed network – aka “1 gigabit-per-second Internet,” and (optical) “fiber to the premises” (FTTP) – to offer consumer Internet and TV services in the City.

The City Council reviewed Google’s proposal at a study session last night (after press time). Google anticipates a three-year effort to build out the network, which would cover Santa Clara’s residential neighborhoods. The contracts will be on the Jan. 12, 2016 Council meeting agenda.

“We think the South Bay offers tremendous opportunity for high-speed Internet, with its entrepreneurial spirit, rapid innovation and diverse industries,” said a Google Fiber spokesperson. “We’re looking forward to continuing to work with city leaders as we consider bringing superfast Internet to the area.”

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Google’s plan calls for using existing utility infrastructure as much as possible, and leaves open the possibility of “acquiring or leasing” existing unused – “dark” – fiber-optic cable in the City. Although Google’s master plan doesn’t say so, the most likely supplier of that unused network capacity would be Silicon Valley Power.

The City-owned electric utility “expects that SVP’s existing dark fiber will provide opportunities for Google Fiber,” said SVP Customer Services Manager Larry Owens, “like it does with other content carriers in Santa Clara, to bridge gaps in their design where they can avoid the high cost of constructing new fiber routes.” 

However, “even though SVP Fiber has an attractive price, it is hard to predict at which locations or routes Google might find our existing fiber attractive,” he continued. “At this point, Google Fiber is still studying options, cementing arrangements with City stakeholders, and navigating CEQA processes. 

“When Google Fiber proceeds with detailed design, SVP Fiber will be at the table looking for opportunities that make sense for both SVP and Google,” Owens added.

One gigabit Internet is 100 times faster than typical U.S. high-speed Internet services. For a visual demonstration of what that means, watch BGR.com’s video at www.tinyurl.com/z8y2q68.

2013’s Super Bowl Bid Said Little About Soccer Park

Lately, it only takes two words to bring an onslaught of reporters, TV cameras, and media-genic picket signs to City Hall: soccer park. The latest commotion is about the NFL’s use of the six-acre park during the Super Bowl. Last night was the third consecutive meeting where it was on the agenda.

The City’s position is that the soccer park is one of the facilities contractually promised to the NFL as a condition for being awarded the mega-sports event, and the City cannot legally deny the NFL the use of the property from the beginning of January through February.

Soccer enthusiasts don’t want the NFL to use the park – saying that such use would destroy the fields and the two months that the fields would be unavailable would cripple soccer programs. Further they’re suspicious that the NFL hasn’t shared its event and logistics plans. Even a commitment from the NFL that it would not only restore the fields to their original condition, but would completely re-sod them if the City wanted, failed to move the disagreement any closer to resolution.

Given the intensity of feeling about the soccer park, it’s surprising that when the Council unanimously approved the terms of a Super Bowl agreement with the NFL on March 19, 2013, nobody mentioned the soccer park. It wasn’t part of the discussion. Instead, speaker after speaker encouraged the Council to approve the agreements because of the publicity the mega-event would bring to the City.

The 2013 agreements the Council approved addressed police, fire, and emergency medical services to support Super Bowl events in Santa Clara at no cost to the NFL or to the teams playing. The agreement also specified the mechanisms by which the City was going to be fully reimbursed for these services by the San Francisco Super Bowl Host Committee, ticket surcharges and parking fees.

The NFL’s exemptions to the City’s hotel tax and $4.50 parking permit fee – covering 350, estimated at 10 percent, of the City’s hotel rooms – was also a significant part of the 2013 discussion. The logic for the exemption – beyond the fact that the NFL made it a condition of being considered – was that the NFL would be spending millions of other taxable dollars in the City.

The eight agreements the Council ratified in 2013 (www.tinyurl.com/nowx697) mention the soccer park once. The agreements state that the City “has within its jurisdiction facilities and premises, access roads, thoroughfares and other areas that may be used for the purpose of organizing, promoting, accommodating, staging and conducting a Super Bowl and its related events.”

The one passage referring to the soccer park is an annotation on a map (Exhibit B) of parking areas that the NFL will be able to use without charge. The soccer park isn’t one of them. Instead, the “NFL or Host Committee [is] to obtain Reservation Agreements with third parties (including Youth Soccer Park) for facilities and parking areas not identified in this Exhibit.”

Also at the March 2013 meeting, the VTA said that it was already developing a Super Bowl 2015 area transit plan. This plan has yet to surface.

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