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.

Filed Under: google fiber, louisville, mess
Companies: google


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  • icon
    Gary (profile), 17 Apr 2019 @ 1:54pm

    $3.8

    I wonder how much the telco's actually paid cockblock the rollout? Between launching lawsuits, sponsoring anti-competitive legislation, bribing the locals, and everything else how much did they spend to derail this and keep competition at bay?
    How much money does it cost to keep a city, or cities, 20 years behind the technology upgrade curve just so they can keep a stranglehold?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 17 Apr 2019 @ 2:04pm

    4 years ago, I wrote about Google's chronic inability to keep useful systems running, and how it might lead to Google Fiber being shuttered once things get difficult or they lose interest.

    I really wish I had been wrong.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Shufflepants (profile), 17 Apr 2019 @ 2:13pm

      Re:

      I'm really afraid that my current Google Fiber connection will get sold to the likes of Comcast or just shut off at some point.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Apr 2019 @ 2:18pm

      Re:

      4 years ago, I wrote about Google's chronic inability to keep useful systems running

      ...and it's a good thing you didn't write it on Google Plus. With apologies to the ghost of JFK, I imagine their all-hands meetings might go a little something like this: "We choose to not build a fiber network. We choose to not build a fiber network in this decade and not do the other things, because they are not easy, but because they are hard; because that goal would serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills; because that challenge is one that we are not willing to accept, one we are willing to postpone, and one we intend to lose."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Apr 2019 @ 8:38am

      Re:

      None of this should be a surprise to anyone who has watched Google's growth over the years. They habitually launch new products and projects, grow them for a couple years and then walk away, shutting down the project/product in the process. Anyone who made use of their new thing is now left high and dry with no warning. It is Google's modus operandi just as HP's is violent waves of hiring and firing on a semiannual basis.

      Frankly I'm amazed that gmail is still operating considering it doesn't make any money. Development on it has clearly waned as the UI is garbage. But then most of Google's UIs are garbage so maybe that's not much of an indicator of commitment.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bruce C., 17 Apr 2019 @ 3:11pm

    Broadband needs an Elon Musk..

    Someone who is willing to make long-term investments before generating a return.

    Trouble is: Musk himself focuses those types of investments in areas where he sees few or no incumbents and believes he can generate a competitive advantage over the ones that exist. SpaceX, The Boring company and even Tesla were all in industries where Musk believed he could use technology to shoot past incumbents.

    If he's not investing in broadband, you can guess why. The competitive advantage of a new company is minimal, and the incumbents are able to use their monopoly power to fight dirty.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Apr 2019 @ 4:51pm

      Re: Broadband needs an Elon Musk..

      Uhh... you realize Elon Musk is investing in a crazy broadband project, right? Starlink, in which he decided it's easier to send 12,000 satellites into space than deal with the roadblocks incumbent ISPs place on Earth-based infrastructure.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Apr 2019 @ 3:37pm

    Google faced two issues here: one is deeply entrenched incumbents willing to do whatever it took to keep their advantage, and the other is Google's long-term vision for prSQUIRREL!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Apr 2019 @ 4:22pm

    $3.84 million for Louisville to get the fiber buried properly and start their own ISP.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Apr 2019 @ 4:52pm

    just wondering ... about what percentage of Google's side-projects have lasted as long as Google Fiber, including those left withering on the vine?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    devdesigner (profile), 18 Apr 2019 @ 10:44am

    Broadband needs an Elon Musk

    I think this really useful tips and i have learned so much here about Google growth .keep publishing such informative post more so that it helps us to know about tech news .
    <a href="http://www.technotownbd.com/">Techno Town </a>

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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