Google Fiber Broadband Hype Replaced By Delays And Frustration

from the in-limbo dept

When Google Fiber first arrived back in 2010, it was lauded as a game changer for the broadband industry. Google Fiber would, we were told, revolutionize the industry by taking Silicon Valley money and using it to disrupt the viciously uncompetitive and anti-competitive telecom sector. Initially things worked out well; cities tripped over themselves offering all manner of perks to the company in the hopes of breaking free from the broadband duopoly logjam. And in some areas where Google Fiber was deployed, prices certainly dropped thanks to Google Fiber market pressure.

But that was then, and this is now.

In late 2016 Alphabet made it clear that the company had grown bored with the high costs and slow pace of deploying fiber. The project has burned through several CEOs in just a year, laid off numerous employees, and the company ultimately announced it was considering a pivot to cheaper wireless technology. The problem: Google’s still conducting numerous tests in various spectrum bands (including millimeter wave), but doesn’t actually know what this replacement tech looks like yet. Meanwhile, the cities once promised a broadband revolution are seeing that hope replaced with annoyance and frustration.

While the company stated it would be putting any new builds on hold, it insisted that existing projects that were underway wouldn’t be impacted. That hasn’t proven to be the case, with users in initial launch markets like Kansas City saying their installations had been cancelled with no real explanation after years of waiting. That same song is also playing out in markets like Atlanta, where hope and excitement have shifted to something decidedly… different:

“It?s been more than three years since the Google Fiber frenzy took hold of the Atlanta area. From Alpharetta to Avondale Estates, Sandy Springs to Smyrna, folks fed up with chronically unreliable internet connections, abysmal customer service and expensive monthly bills lapped up Google Fiber?s promise….Google has released little public information about the Atlanta rollout delays, and company officials declined WABE?s multiple requests for an interview on the status of the project and other specifics.

Noting a trend yet? You’ll notice the same complaints in Austin, one of Google Fiber’s more robust builds, where locals point out that progress appears to have stopped for many users who say the technology was installed, but progress just magically ceased:

“Construction is complete. Equipment is installed. But a year later, a south Austin neighborhood says they’re still waiting on Google Fiber to actually work…Today, some residents say they can’t get a straight answer on what’s taking so long to access the high-speed internet…

Susan Speyer says when she was signing up for Google Fiber, she was told she’d have service in, “Just a few weeks to max three months.” And as the months passed, cable and internet bills with other providers, they say, have gone up. Neighbor Sherry Lowry adding, “It’s doubled since all of this started with Google.”

To be fair, Google’s PR folks can’t offer answers of what comes next because Google itself doesn’t know what the wireless technology that will supplant fiber will look like. But even Google’s wireless promises have been decidedly shaky. After acquiring urban wireless provider Webpass two years ago, some of that company’s coverage markets have actually shrunk, with the provider simply pulling out of cities like Boston without much explanation. And many of the executives that were part of that acquisition have “suddenly” departed for unspecified reasons.

At this point it’s certainly possible that once Google Fiber is done with its multi-year, numerous wireless tests it settles on a cheaper (but still expensive and time consuming) alternative to fiber. But as the company’s newfound apathy and steady retreat from net neutrality advocacy makes clear, this isn’t the same company Alphabet/Google was when this experiment started, and it remains entirely possible the entire project is scuttled or sold off as Google itself inevitably shifts from innovation and disruption to turf protection (especially with ISPs like Comcast and AT&T pushing harder into advertising).

Meanwhile, the broadband sector is actually getting less competitive than ever as the nation’s telcos give up on upgrading aging DSL lines, leaving the nation’s cable providers with greater regional monopolies than ever before. The fact that nobody wants to upgrade this nation’s already mediocre broadband infrastructure (because it’s not profitable enough, quickly enough for Wall Street) is a major reason more and more towns and cities are simply building their own broadband networks — assuming states haven’t banned them from doing so at large ISP behest.

Based on what we’re seeing lately, those hoping that Google still has the money, resources and willpower to shake the broadband sector out of its monopoly dysfunction probably shouldn’t hold their breath.

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Comments on “Google Fiber Broadband Hype Replaced By Delays And Frustration”

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HegemonicDistortion says:


It’s basically stopped in Nashville, too, best I can tell.

I don’t know why the Googles and Amazons and Apples don’t form a consortium for widespread deployment. They have to know the value of not being subject to Comcast and AT&T’s tolls. Of course all the better for the people if municipalities (or whole states) do this themselves, but surely it’s in these mega-corps long-term interest to undertake it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Good Article, Karl!

I’m very thankful that Karl is setting the record straight about Google Fiber. Although if this article had just come out 24 hours earlier, it could have staved off a major argument about Google Fiber in the comments section of another article (one that had nothing to do with Google Fiber). Though it’s quite possible that could be a major reason why this article about Google Fiber is even here today.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Good Article, Karl!

I’m very thankful that Karl is setting the record straight about Google Fiber.

You mean the record in which he — at best — stenographed LIES and PR from Google?

And why do you think he’s accurate now? This is just more PR fluff.

The comment yesterday pointed up simple fact that Google is NOT spending billions in court trying to get into markets. It’s just not.

Clearly Techdirt re-writers and readers have a fantasy view of Google Fiber.

Steve Swafford (profile) says:

Different fiber

I just got my fiber hookup from ALLO in my area and I couldn’t be happier. 1k up/down. When I went to TWC/Spectrum to return their router (that I had for over a decade), there was a line out the door of people with dvr’s and routers under their arms returning. It felt good to drop that thing off and walk away finally.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Barriers

“Since the barriers to Google Fiber are entrenched monopolists,”

Brought to you by “regulation”…

“seems like the solution is some better laws and regulations to correct this.”

How so? Have we not been playing this angle for like the past 80 decades? Has it worked yet?

“Pajit’s de-regulation obviously has no effect on the situation.”

This is total non-sequitor. Pai is rolling back NN, which has NOTHING to do with the regulations blessing and facilitating the incumbent monopoly strangleholds that are present. These “pro-monopoly” regulations have been around before most of us were born and all have survived or were strengthened regardless of which party in power.


Fiber is hard

Called this 5 years ago. Fiber-to-the-home is unnecessary and a ridiculous marking snafu. Fiber became a marketing term associated with high speeds, but the reality is that much the same can be done over traditional mediums with far less design, permitting, and installation challenges. I can push more over a 80Ghz ultra-high frequency microwave link faster than a run of fiber optic.

Our company attended a municipal fiber workshop a few years back. Planning a municipal fiber install is nuts compared to other mediums.

It’s financially not viable. Fiber is meant to carry bits many miles with high signalling efficiency. Whoever turned it into a synonym for high speed internet option for consumers should be drawn and quartered.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Fiber is hard

I can push more over a 80Ghz ultra-high frequency microwave link faster than a run of fiber optic.

With a microwave link, that bandwidth is all you have in the area covered by the antenna, and beyond. whereas if you need more capacity in a fiber system you run more fibers. Besides which, what do you feed that microwave link with? I would bet it is fiber.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Fiber is hard

Radio signalling will always, due to basic physics, be slower than light-based technology. 80Mb/sec is nothing compared to what fiber can do. You may consider that “high speed” but 1000Mb/sec is indisputably faster. Not only that, the switching rates of light are far higher so you ping, the latency in every request sent over “the wire”, is much lower with fiber or even cable than it can ever be over the air.

Add to that the risk to airborne wildlife with the use of microwave tech and the choice is pretty clear: Life is better using a physical wire of one type or another to connect homes to the internet.

sumgai (profile) says:

Re: Fiber is hard

I can push more over a 80Ghz ultra-high frequency microwave link faster than a run of fiber optic.

Not likely. Besides the fact that 80GHz would be in the Extremely High Frequency band (not UHF), a single fiber cable (not a bundle) can carry more than enough data to satisfy the average residential customer in today’s world (2018). In fact, it’s not economically viable to run just one single fiber, it’s much cheaper to simply run a small bundle to each destination, even to a single family residence. As need increases over time, the bundle can handle such expansion with ease.

But moreover, where do you expect to find a family-budget-friendly transceiver (or modem, in computer parlance) that can drive that microwave link? Looked at any communications catalogs lately?

And as noted already, you’re gonna be using a fiber to drive that setup, as pretty much the best-quality co-ax cable tops out at 60GHz or so. Under lab conditions, fiber can now hit 255THz

So let’s put paid to this scenario: If you are going to punch out more than 100 milliwatts of RF at that frequency, you will be obtaining an FCC licence in order to stay legal… for starters. Getting someone else to lay your fiber is a one-time expense, and no legal hassles on your part. And let’s nor forget that microwave transmissions are not immune to bad weather conditions, nor are microwave towers immune to minor tectonic shifts, aircraft (manned or otherwise) that can’t seem to avoid things sticking up out of the earth, the list goes on….

(Side note: high-end audio equipment from the 1990’s usually came with an optical coupler (S/PDIF-TOSLINK). This technology ain’t new, folks.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Fiber is hard

For providers too many people don’t need the advantages of fiber and it is far more expensive than OTA-technologies.

For the advanced end-users, however, the advantages of having a physical connection you can more easily use for whatever devices you want is pretty good. Also: Since fiber is among the theoretically fastest transfer technologies out-there, the technlogy-proofing will be an advantage.

First wave roll-out of OTA is a no-brainer, but as people become more advanced in their needs (Ie. If some smart-home devices become relevant to connect without selling your soul to hackers!) the physical fiber will stay relevant regardless of backward compatibility-issues of the OTA-technologies.

farooge (profile) says:

Broadband in Nashville

I actually work at the electric company – the company whose pole’s Google Fiber was fighting for ‘one-touch-make-ready’ rules to access.

They HAD an office in our building and never said much (read: anything). That’s all I know – I’m still on the signup list and haven’t heard a peep (ever!).

HOWEVER, I now have access to gigabit connections from Comcast (_slightly_ spotty at time but very usable even for gaming) and AT&T. I just got the AT&T one and currently experiencing installation issues, but when it works, HOLY COW.

After promos are over the cost will be (as far as I understand)
AT&T $90/month – no cap (offered to gigabit fiber customers only)
Comcast $80/month + $30/Month for unlimited

I’m disgusted with (overtly arrogant) Google and WILL switch to Apple (or maybe a new Surface phone???). In time Nest will be removed too. I’m done with that company

streetlight (profile) says:

Installing cable & Internet by cities might be better

In some places we’ve seen cities and towns install municipally owned cable systems that give more than adequate Internet speeds with much smaller monthly fees for Internet service. This might be a better option than Google Fiber if the installations are completed in a timely manner. It’s possible the increasing monthly fees for commercial services is to keep profits up in a time of cord cutting. The commercial, for profit services need to increase Internet and TV monthly subscription fees as folks cut TV subscriptions. All this assumes it’s not against the law to for municipalities to do this.

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