Google Pays $3.8 Million To Clean Up Its Fiber Mess In Louisville
from the disruption-180 dept
When Google Fiber launched in 2010, it was lauded as a game changer for the broadband industry. Google Fiber, we were told, would revolutionize the industry by taking Silicon Valley money and disrupting 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 markets where Google Fiber was deployed, prices dropped thanks to this added competition.
The fun didn’t last. In late 2016 Alphabet began getting cold feet about the high costs and slow return of the project, and effectively mothballed the entire thing — without admitting that’s what they were doing. The company blew through several CEOs in just a few months, laid off hundreds of employees, froze any real expansion, and cancelled countless installations for users who had been waiting years. And while Google made a lot of noise about how it would be shifting from fiber to wireless to possibly cut costs, those promises so far appear stuck in neutral as well.
The mess created by this abrupt about face was felt most in cities like Louisville, which had tripped over themselves to please Google. After passing a bunch of new pole attachment rules and fending off an AT&T lawsuit over said rules, Google suddenly left the city high and dry, announcing last February they’d be retreating from the city. A big reason for that retreat is that Google subcontractors had screwed up the fiber microtrenching (burying fiber just a few inches below the road) it was using as an alternative to using city (and AT&T) utility poles.
There’s plenty of animosity in Louisville about Google’s sudden retreat, though the company made partial amends this week by paying $3.8 million in a bid to clean up the mess left in the company’s wake:
“Google Fiber will pay $3.84 million to Louisville Metro Government (LMG) to restore roads and other public rights-of-way affected by its departing service in Louisville.
Louisville Metro Government and Google Fiber agreed to these payments to fulfill the company?s obligations under its franchise agreement and local regulations, which require restoration of rights-of-way should a service provider end service in Louisville. Citing technical challenges, Google Fiber announced its exit from Louisville in February.”
Google also wound up paying a $150,000 cash donation to the Community Foundation of Louisville?s Digital Inclusion Fund to support local digital education efforts.
While that closes the book on Louisville’s fiber aspirations, Google still has a problem on its hands. It’s clear to everybody watching that the company no longer is really interested in disrupting telecom, but publicly keeps trying to tell customers and the press that nothing has truly changed. But with the company’s fiber efforts frozen and its wireless pivot apparently going nowhere (in fact it appears to have shrunk since it acquired Webpass), Google needs to either come clean about its waning interest (and likely sell the project off) or explain why — if the project is still important to the company — the entire effort has been stuck in neutral for several years.