The City of Durham’s agreement with AT&T for the deployment of an ultrafast Internet agreement is not exclusive and therefore doesn’t preclude a similar agreement with Google, says Deputy City Manager Wanda Page.

In response to a series of questions from WRAL TechWire about the AT&T-Durham agreement disclosed Thursday, Page pointed out that the City also is not giving AT&T any special service or permissions in seeking access to right-of-way and municipal property.

AT&T’s U-verse Internet and entertainment network would be extended to Durham for the first time as part of a “Giga-power” fiber network. Giga refers to gigabit Internet speeds, which is 10 times that of traditional cable networks.

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Durham’s phone services are provided primarily by Frontier Communications. Time Warner Cable also serves the Durham market.

The AT&T-Durham agreement is based on a plan supported by the North Carolina Next Generation Network consortium, which includes Duke, N.C. State, UNC-Chapel Hill and Wake Forest universities. NCNGN recommended AT&T’s network proposal be adopted after a review process. The cities of Raleigh, Cary, Chapel Hill and Carrboro have given initial support for the plan. The Winston-Salem City Council approved the AT&T agreement earlier this week. The cities also are part of NCNGN, which picked the AT&T proposal in April.

NCNGN wants a network capable of delivering Internet at gigabit speed – 10 times the speed of cable – and also wants access for communities that have not received broadband in the past. NCNGN also has called for community Wi-Fi wireless access.

However, Page said the City will work with Google as well as other providers who are interested.

“Yes, the City intends to cooperate with providers of similar fiber based network providers in similar ways,” Page said.

Asked if Durham would the same assistance be afforded to Google, Page responded: “The City has provided all information requested by Google in its Google Fiber City Checklist.”

Google has made clear that in considering Durham as well as other metro areas for its Google Fiber network that cities must work with them on meeting zoning requests as well as providing access to right-of-way and use of public property.

Raleigh and Cary, for example, has already struck an agreement with Google for deployment of so-called “fiber huts” to locate its network equipment.

The agreement does call for AT&T to bear the cost of the network and to provide WiFi free of charge in public areas. While the agreement specifies that the service will be labeled as provided by AT&T, the City has the right to work with other providers.

Based on a review of the document and Page’s responses, here are some highlights of the agreement:

  • The City is not committing to underwriting any costs of the network beyond community Wi-Fi
  • The City is free to negotiate with other providers.
  • The agreement is not exclusive, thus the City can negotiate with Google or other firms
  • No schedule of fees was listed, but AT&T has agreed to pay for access to and use of public property.
  • The amount of the fees will be negotiated later. “If City Property is required and exists and is needed by AT&T or similar providers, fees for use/rent will be negotiated at the time,” Page said.
  • Other companies can pursue similar usage with the same understanding and negotiation
  • Access to City right-of-way is not new. ”[U]tility providers are provided access to City right-of-way through licenses or franchise agreements,” Page explained.
  • The City’s agreement to work with AT&T in meeting zoning requirements is not new. “Zoning and inspections manage the City’s right of way agreements. This is not new assistance,” Page noted.