While Charleston may have a rapidly growing population and a rising technology sector, the Holy City wasn’t among the Southeastern metros picked to receive Google’s superfast fiber-optic Internet service.
The Silicon Valley giant announced last week that it had completed planning phases and would begin installing Google Fiber in Nashville, Charlotte, Raleigh/Durham and Atlanta. Those cities have been on Google’s radar for about a year, so it’s not exactly a surprise that Charleston was left out this time around. Google announced plans last February to expand the service to 34 cities, and Charleston wasn’t on the list.
Still, the local tech industry is bummed, says Stanfield Gray, founder of Dig South Festival. “A lot of local people in tech are wondering how Charleston can get on the Google Fiber list,” he said. “We have a Google Data Center. Why not fiber, yet?”
Charleston officials did put in a bid for the service several years ago, says city spokeswoman Barbara Vaughn. But Google officials said it’s unlikely they’ll add any more cities to the project right now.
“We love that people are ex- cited about Fiber, but we have to start somewhere — we have a lot of work to do before we can talk about additional expansion plans,” said Lauren Barriere, a Google spokeswoman.
Google claims the fiber service can provide Internet speeds up to 100 times faster than nonfiber networks. Many in Charleston’s tech realm said a service like Google Fiber could mean a lot more for the industry than just faster downloads.
“Not only would faster Internet access benefit all of the tech companies in town, it would enable the next generation of entrepreneurs to turn their ideas into reality. Ubiquitous, fast Internet access is the lifeblood of the knowledge-based economy, and would add more fuel to Charleston’s already white-hot technology fire,” said Chad Norman of the local software development firm SPARC.
Tim Kelly, head of locally based Zubie, worked in Kansas City when Google Fiber launched there. He said it “stimulated huge growth” for startups.
“Because of everything we’re doing to attract more businesses, this would just be another huge piece ... to grow the tech industry in Charleston,” said Ernest Andrade, head of the Charleston Digital Corridor.