Wiring cities for Google Fiber not always pretty

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - This spring will look less leafy at 39th and Genessee streets.

Blame the need for Internet speed.

A crew, hired by Google Inc. to make way for the company’s overhead fiber optic lines, transformed the neighborhood ginkgo trees into tall stumps one morning last summer.

“They butchered ‘em, just butchered ‘em,” said Ted Larkin, the owner of three buildings in the neighborhood.

Complaints would ultimately prompt the removal of what was left of the trees, replaced with saplings needing decades to produce the same shade. Those in the neighborhood notice the difference.

“Technology,” said Jim Svetlecic of State of the Art picture frame shop, “is not painless.”

Once Google Fiber fully wires Kansas City with its light-speed-to-the-home Internet network, no other American market its size will boast such broad, broad broadband.

To get there, the Google Fiber technicolor bunny is tree-trimming, jackhammering and trenching its way across the area to hoist, bury and stretch a network of fiber optic lines that zig-zags - so far - for nearly 6,000 miles.

On a given day, city officials say, about 1,000 workers for private companies scatter across the market to climb utility poles, string cables through buried conduit or lace lines into crawl spaces to stitch together Google’s network.

Sometimes their work leaves beloved trees denuded. Other times, crews clip electrical, telephone, cable or natural gas lines. On occasion, people nearby have had to clear out of homes or offices when gas leaks were triggered.

Google’s contractors planted metal cabinets in sidewalks and other places that upset residents in the early months of construction. It was forced to relocate about a dozen of the boxes, sometimes to comply with federal rules against blocking wheelchair access.

It got complaints of workers moving through neighborhoods without identification. Now, the company says, they all wear Google Fiber-branded vests and hats or helmets.

“We take each question and complaint seriously,” a company spokeswoman said, “and consider what the best thing to do is in each situation.”

A project known for its promise of instantaneous downloads is, for now, chiefly being experienced as old-style construction and its accompanying headaches.

A year ago, about 20 Brookside homes were evacuated when a gas line was ruptured in the neighborhood. The incident began when a Google contractor accidentally cut one of AT&T;’s underground lines. When AT&T; dispatched a contractor to repair the damage, that crew hit a gas line.

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