Google Fiber already legally locked in to lease with Huntsville Utilities

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - A recent blog post announcing the resignation of the CEO of Access, which runs Google Fiber, started off the second news cycle about Google Fiber slamming the brakes on new operations in just the last few months, but WHNT News 19 has obtained copies of both a Network Agreement and a Lease Agreement that Huntsville Utilities says Google Fiber has already signed.

This commits Google Fiber to leasing space on the dark fiber network that Huntsville Utilities is building.

A Huntsville Utilities spokesperson says they were given a heads up that the blog post from Google Fiber was coming, and that Google Fiber remains committed to Huntsville, largely because of the unique model of construction the utility company has undertaken by building the network itself and only depending on Google Fiber to run the so-called "last mile" from the network to the home.

But even if Google Fiber continued the trend of rolling back the scope of its operations, they appear legally obligated to at least pay their rent for the Huntsville Utilities network.

Google Fiber could get out of the agreements if certain technical specifications aren't met during the design and construction process,  but we asked about them one by one, and a spokesperson for Huntsville Utilities says the boxes are getting checked.

He tells us Google Fiber has agreed to the Network and Lease Agreements. They have accepted the first section design of the whole network. And they've specifically accepted the network section design of the first chunk of the fiber network to be built.

A hangup at any of those steps would have given Google Fiber a contractual way to get out of the lease, but since those steps have been fulfilled, that doesn't leave many legal outlets for Google to escape the lease they agreed to for twenty years, even if they wanted to.

One of the last ripcords for Google Fiber, they can call the whole thing off it they don't get a franchise agreement from the city for their video service.

The introduction of that franchise agreement is set before the Huntsville City Council for October 27th. Councilman Bill Kling as well as a spokesperson for the City of Huntsville tell us they expect the vote on the franchise agreement to pass without issue.

As far as the first section of fiber Huntsville Utilities is building in northeast Huntsville, Huntsville Utilities Spokesperson Gary Whitley tells us, "We will deliver that at that milestone at March 2017."

Payments from Google Fiber for the lease should start around that time.

So while Google Fiber has slowed its expansion in other markets, Whitley says, "Our project here in Huntsville is going forward, and that's because of the unique model that we're using where we're building the fiber network. And because we're building it for our own operations use, they are just leasing that dark fiber, which will be available to other tenants as well."

The legal agreements they've signed should keep Google Fiber locked in to that plan.