By Sarah Kay LeBlanc, Des Moines Register
Google Fiber opened its only Iowa office and retail space in Valley Junction Thursday to welcome its first customers to its ultra-fast network.
West Des Moines is one of 17 metro areas in the country and the only one in Iowa that will soon have access to a one or two gigabit fiber-optic internet, which is about 100 times faster than the average broadband connection.
Some homes will be able to connect to Google Fiber as early as next week, depending on where they are located in the suburban city, said Andy Simpson, the company’s general manager of the central region.
Staff at the Valley Junction location, on the ground floor of a new development at 329 Fifth St. next to St. Kilda, will help residents sign up and have representatives available to answer questions.
West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce President Katherine Harrington said the network will set the city apart from others in the state.
“We are here to be the game-changers,” Harrington said.
She said the project is a step toward fulfilling the city’s 2036 plan — a visioning guide published in 2015 that sets a 20-year course for the city.
Mayor Russ Trimble said after surveying residents and businesses about what they wanted to see develop in the city, high-speed, reliable internet was the top priority.
“I’m extremely proud and happy to be delivering that to the residents and businesses of West Des Moines,” he said.
Trimble said the city is about half done with the conduit network construction, which is expected to be completed late next year. About six other broadband providers are able to run their fiber through the network for a fee, which would help offset the cost of the conduit for taxpayers.
Most homes in West Des Moines can be connected to Google Fiber if they choose by early 2024, Simpson said. A one gigabit plan starts at $70 per month and a two gigabit plan starts at $100 per month.
“The stability, the pricing and the quality of Google Fiber internet are the key,” he said. “We want to be that seamless connectivity in the background.”
West Des Moines invested about $40 million in a partnership with Google Fiber in 2020 to bring the tech company’s network to the city.
The partnership soon caused controversy, however, with Mediacom filing a lawsuit against the city in December 2020, claiming that the city’s plan to provide ultra-high-speed Google Fiber internet violated multiple state laws.
The city settled the lawsuit in January this year after agreeing to a nearly $600,000 financial payout and granting Mediacom access to parts of the fiber-optic network.
Sarah LeBlanc covers the western suburbs for the Register. Reach her at 515-284-8161 or [email protected]. Follower her on Twitter at @sarahkayleblanc