Google may expand Fiber to nine new markets

Portland among sites that may receive service

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Google Inc. told dozens of cities Wednesday that it might contemplate bringing them its Internet and TV services, nearly three years after promising the hook-ups it has yet to fully deploy in Kansas City.

In a post to its blog Wednesday, Google Fiber said it would ask 34 cities within nine metropolitan areas to fill out a checklist of items “to explore what it would take” to string a fiber optic network in those communities.

Google has regularly said it needs cities to clear out red tape that can slow the expensive work of building a network street by street.

The company’s Internet service is distinct because it relies on running fiber optic cables directly into homes and offering 1-gigabit-per-second uploads and downloads at home consumer prices.

“We continue to believe that the Internet’s next chapter will be built on gigabit speeds,” wrote Milo Medin, Google’s vice president of access services. “We’re aiming to provide updates by the end of the year about which cities will be getting Google Fiber.”

The news could signal a major expansion hitting several regions in the country, although none of the country’s largest markets, such as New York, Los Angeles or Chicago. Instead, Google says it’s looking at possibly building networks in Phoenix; Atlanta; San Jose, Calif.; Salt Lake City; Nashville, Tenn.; San Antonio; Charlotte, N.C.; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; and Portland.

More than 1,100 communities in 2010 pleaded with Google to bring them the ultra-high-speed Internet service. In the spring of 2011, Google named Kansas City, Kan., as its first choice. It then gradually expanded its plans to include much of the broader Kansas City market.

So far, it has completed construction and installation to much of Kansas City, Kan., and to a central section of Kansas City. It has said it will tackle sign-ups for the southern and northern stretches of Kansas City later this year. Yet home installations for much of that area are likely still more than a year away.

Google Fiber will not say how many customers it has, or when it expects to turn a profit in Kansas City.

The company has made agreements with several suburbs in the market — although notably not with Overland Park, Kan., or Independence, Mo. — but has not said when installations in the outlying areas might begin.

Meantime, Google has cut a deal to build a similar network in Austin, Texas. That news was followed by announcements that AT&T and another Internet service provider in that market would sell consumers gigabit connections. Kansas City did not see a similar response from cable or phone companies.

Google also bought an existing fiber-to-the-home system in Provo, Utah, and has begun delivering its service there.