Scott Ball / Rivard Report
Google Fiber will decrease the number of "fiber huts" to be installed in San Antonio, and will remove a structure located in Haskin Park that has proven controversial.
Google officials told the San Antonio Express-News that developments in technology over the past few months have allowed the company to reduce the number of huts – infrastructure for the distribution points of the fiber optic network – throughout the city. Under a previous agreement, 17 huts were to be placed in parks, libraries, fires stations, a police station, a vacant parcel of land, and near a drainage structure.
Now Google will utilize trenching to bury its network lines, a method that will speed up the installation process and cause less disruption in communities, according to officials.
"We’ve enjoyed a strong relationship with Google Fiber and appreciate their willingness to continue to work with us to create a fiber network that fits our community," said Mayor Ivy Taylor, who met with Google policy leaders in San Antonio and Washington this year.
Measuring about 10 feet high, 30 feet long, and 10 feet deep, with security fencing surrounding them, two fiber huts were constructed in Haskin and West End parks last year, causing protest from surrounding neighbors who described them as "eyesores."
John Whitsett, who lives across the street from Haskin Park in Oak Park-Northwood, has been pressing the City for months to remove the hut. He and his neighbors have never been against Google, he said, just the installation of the huts, which he said reduced park visibility, among other issues.
He said the City did not follow procedure in the hut implementation process, including failing to initially receive required design approval from the Historic and Design Review Commission (HDRC).
Whitsett said when he initially spoke up about the hut's removal from the park last year, he didn't think anything would come of it. He is relieved that his and his neighbors' efforts have produced favorable results for their community, he said, "but the disappointing thing is that this should never have happened. ... We should not have had to do the job that our elected officials should have been doing."
Haskin Park's Google hut will be replaced with a much smaller "cabinet," officials told the Express-News, about the same size as a mini-refrigerator.
"Technology is ever-changing, and we are proud to help keep San Antonio at the forefront of fiber deployment,” said District 10 Councilman Mike Gallagher, whose district is home to Haskin Park. "The goal has always been to work toward a solution that not only benefits our community around Haskin Park, but also the 40,000 residents served by the fiber backbone. I am pleased to see that our collective efforts made that goal a reality."
After Whitsett and other neighbors spoke out about the huts, City officials – including Taylor and City Manager Sheryl Sculley – made an effort to work with Google to minimize the huts' impact on neighborhoods.
Whitsett said the whole experience was a reminder that "our city leaders, they need to be held accountable.
"They need to do what's right by the people," he added. "I think that people and citizens are reasonable, and if there’s a good project, you work with them and you be upfront with them, and not try to bury it."