On a Sunday afternoon late last year, a Google contractor hit a gas line near Wornall Road and 50th Street. That triggered an evacuation of 75 to 100 people at the Kirkwood Condominiums for roughly four hours. The condo has since been wired for Google Fiber, and Christine Lentz, who manages the units for Curry Association Management, said it’s received high marks from residents.
AT&T; suffered an outage earlier this month in the Northland - where Google Fiber’s latest expansion is just beginning - when a contractor damaged a cable beneath Vivion Road. Working in a thoroughfare, AT&T; said, made it tough to mend the broken line.
The telecommunications industry offers no handy yardstick by which to judge whether construction causes unreasonable disruption. Rather, companies say any construction is bound to beget accidents, which they do their best to minimize.
“We strive to return the property to its original condition,” said Time Warner Cable spokesman Michael Pedelty.
City and gas and electric utility officials largely give Google Fiber good marks for its major remaking of Kansas City high-tech infrastructure. Yet they concede a project so large is no small inconvenience.
“(Google) is essentially re-plumbing the city for fiber,” said Kansas City Power & Light Co. spokesman Chuck Caisley. “Folks need to understand that any infrastructure project is messy and difficult.”
Google’s work to wire Kansas City, Kan., is mostly complete.
Across the state line, the second major phase of the project is just getting underway. Less than half of Kansas City’s neighborhoods have been wired for Google Fiber. The company is now starting work in the southern and northern thirds of the city as well as Raytown, Grandview and Gladstone.
Yet the work has already generated more than 37,000 construction permits in Kansas City. (The Unified Government of Wyandotte County required just two blanket permits to cover traffic obstruction, construction and right of way access.)
Those permits give Google contractors permission to bore into streets and sidewalks to install underground cables, to cut off lanes of traffic while the work is going on, and sometimes to put metal plates over temporary holes in the pavement.
Kansas City has waived the usual fees for those permits for Google - and to other telecommunication companies since then. Had it been charging Google the usual fees, city officials said, the costs might near $2 million.
Caisley said KCP&L; was anxious about working with a company taking its first swing at infrastructure. Google has been hanging much of its wire on the electric utility’s poles. Yet he said Google - primarily through chief contractor Atlantic Engineering Group - “has done an excellent job.”
Still, complaints have piled up. On Google Fiber’s online forum, one resident complained of a foul-mouthed crew that damaged a tree and a fence.
Another wrote of a crew showing up without Google identification and scaling a wall without permission.
Google concedes the sometimes disruptive nature of its network construction.