After years of lobbying for Google Fiber then waiting for service once the Triangle was picked as a site, the news many Triangle residents and businesses have hoped for is official: Construction of a 5,700 mile fiber-optic high-speed Internet and entertainment network by Google is finally getting under way.

People across the Triangle have been vocal about getting Google Fiber since 2010, offering anything from naming children after Google’s founders and pleas such as “We could use a city of tomorrow today.”

That “tomorrow” became closer to reality Tuesday, with the Triangle market joining the list of Google Fiber hubs already being built in Kansas City (the first), Provo, Utah, and Austin, Texas.

Google announced the Triangle as one of its next markets in January, but the company has kept a low profile about construction plans as it continued to negotiate with various governments for right-of-way access and zoning approvals.

On Tuesday, Google Fiber said that hundreds of construction workers hired by contractor Bechtel are now working on the network that will span some 50,000 utility poles as well as miles of fiber-optic cable buried underground.

Google Fiber also is looking to hire some staff to run the network.

Enough fiber will be dug and hung to stretch to California – where Google is based in Silicon Valley – and back, the company notes.

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Some 26 “fiber huts” will house the networking gear necessary to deliver gigabit speed Internet –100 times or more faster than standard cable Internet speeds.

In an exclusive Q&A interview with WRAL TechWire, J. Erik Garr, the head of Google Fiber for the Triangle, said the company is eager to add the region to its network for multiple reasons.

“The Triangle is a world-renowned hub for great universities, rapid innovation and a thriving biotechnology sector. We’ve seen that the Triangle’s tech-savvy, entrepreneurial residents are excited about using new technology like gigabit connections – and they have the skills to use a gig to develop applications for the next generation of the Internet,” he explained.

“The Triangle’s city leaders have a vision for how gigabit connectivity can make the community stronger, and they’ve worked really closely with us to develop a clear plan for how to build Fiber throughout the area in a way that’s efficient and the least disruptive.”

Launch date, costs not set

However Google won’t commit to specific service launch date.

Nor will it comment on cost.

Once the service is available, prices will be similar to those offered in other areas, Garr said.

In Kansas City, for example, gigabit Internet service with a TV entertainment package runs $130 per month. Gigabit Internet access only is $70. AT&T offers similar price for gigabit access.

Google Fiber also offers a free Internet service at slower speeds but does charge a one-time $300 construction fee.

However, Google Fiber will not offer a separate Wi-Fi service, according to Garr. Both Time Warner Cable and AT&T have recently expanded Wi-Fi access.

Google also declined to disclose a list of all the municipal governments in the Triangle area with which it has reached agreements.

Garr stressed that local governments have been very cooperative with Google. That attitude has been a key to securing Google’s decision to invest across Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Cary and elsewhere, he added.

“Since we first announced Google Fiber would come to the Triangle, our team of engineers has been working closely with cities across the metro area to design our network – preparing permitting packages, creating a detailed map of where we can put our thousands of miles of fiber and plotting out existing infrastructure such as utility poles and underground conduit,” he explained. “We’ll continue to work closely with each city as we build our fiber network.”

Competition awaits

Google Fiber will not be the first to offer gigabit Internet service in the Triangle, however, as it was in other markets.

AT&T has already deployed parts of its U-Verse with GigaPower fiber network in parts of the area and also is committed to building the North Carolina Next Generation Network in partnership with several universities and municipalities across the Triangle and Triad.

The two companies already are competing in Austin, Texas.

Frontier Communications was the first to deploy fiber-based Internet in the Triangle, and it continues to add fiber across parts of Durham as well as Durham County.

CenturyLink, which covers the service area that once was Sprint territory, also recently disclosed fiber plans.

And Time Warner Cable is ramping up Internet speeds as it coverts to an all-digital network. While not the equal of gigabit, the TWC service is several times faster than its previous level of service.