Google Fiber sets its sights on Omaha

Google Fiber is looking to make Omaha, Nebraska its 19th fiber market, with the city’s Council set to weigh a license agreement with the operator next week.

In a blog, Head of Government and Community Affairs for Google Fiber’s Central Region Rachel Merlo said that once the agreement is approved “we’ll get right to work, with construction starting in early 2023.”

An Omaha City Council agenda for its upcoming October 4 meeting shows the license agreement with Google Fiber is up for a first reading. In local government, ordinances and resolutions typically receive a first reading and a second reading. Approval is usually either granted or denied during the latter, though processes vary and sometimes a third reading is held. A second reading and public hearing for Google Fiber’s license agreement is set for October 18, with a third reading scheduled for October 25.

The operator already appears to have the support of Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert, who said in a statement "New and expanding technologies are important to our city’s growth, to attract new residents and new business. Google Fiber is a perfect fit for the growing tech sector of our economy."

The agreement on the table in Omaha would allow Google Fiber to build in the city’s right-of-way. The non-exclusive license carries an initial 10-year term, with additional 10-year renewal options.

It specifies that any cables installed in the space between the sidewalk and the edge of the street must be buried at a minimum depth of six inches, while cables buried beneath major roadways and residential street must be buried at depths of 30 inches and 24 inches, respectively. These specifications are relevant to the operator’s use of micro-trenching technology to help speed network construction. Micro-trenching channels are typically between six and 24 inches deep.

As in its agreements with other cities, the license in Omaha would see Google Fiber pay 2% of gross revenues to the city on a quarterly basis.

Nebraska is one of five states where Google Fiber has said it plans to build in the coming years. It recently received approval to build in Mesa, Arizona and is also eyeing projects in Colorado, Nevada and Idaho.

When it announced its five-state expansion plan in August, Mesa was the only city Google Fiber mentioned by name. But at the time, Fierce highlighted Omaha as a potential target due to the presence of Google data centers nearby and Ookla data showing the city was among those with the poorest broadband performance in Q2 2022. Other cities that meet this same criteria include Reno and Las Vegas, Nevada and Council Bluffs in Iowa.

In Omaha, Google Fiber will be squaring off with Lumen Technologies, which offers its Quantum Fiber service there. Other providers include Cox Communications, HughesNet, T-Mobile (with its fixed wireless service), Rise Broadband and Nextlink, according to BroadbandNow data.