from the nothing-to-see-here dept
Late last year Google Fiber announced it would be pausing expansion into several new markets, axing its CEO, and shuffling a number of employees around. Reports subsequently emerged suggesting that Alphabet higher ups were growing frustrated with the high cost and slow pace of fiber deployment, and were contemplating an overall larger shift to wireless. While the company continues to insist that there's nothing to see here and that everything is continuing as normal, signs continue to emerge that the ground Google Fiber is built on may not be particularly sturdy.
This week numerous Kansas City residents say they were told that the company was cancelling their installations after waiting eighteen months for service. Users there are frustrated by Google's complete lack of explanation for the rash of cancellations:
"About April, May, I saw sometimes as many as four to five Fiber trucks in the neighborhood. I kept watching my email but never got anything in the mail to schedule my appointment or anything,” Muerer told 41 Action News.
That was back in October 2015.
Eighteen months later, Meurer still doesn’t have Google Fiber. He recently received an email saying the company had canceled his installation.
"I’m left wondering what is going on,” said Meurer.
Kansas City residents aren't alone. Portland was one of the cities Google Fiber was supposed to launch in, but locals there are similarly frustrated by Google's about face. Especially since the city had shuffled around city ordinances, laid the groundwork for the placement of Google Fiber "huts," and convinced state legislatures to pass a new state law providing notable tax incentives for Google Fiber. Chicago, Jacksonville, Los Angeles, Oklahoma City, Phoenix, San Diego, San Jose, and Tampa were also in various states of contact with Google Fiber about potential builds that apparently will no longer be happening.
And while Google Fiber still exists, Google/Alphabet isn't helping restore confidence it the disruptive potential of the service. By and large the company continues to insist that everything is fine and there's nothing to see here despite ongoing evidence of cold feet at the executive level. Whenever press outlets inquire about last fall's decision, reporters are given a calorie-free rosy statement that tells people absolutely nothing substantive about what's going on. This statement, for example, is what I was given when I asked the company specifically why it was cancelling fiber installations in Kansas City:
"Google Fiber loves Kansas City and is here to stay. We’ve been grateful to be part of your community since 2011, and for the opportunity to provide superfast Internet to residents. We recently announced our expansion into Raymore, we are continuing to build in Overland Park, and we can’t wait for even more customers in Kansas City to experience what’s possible with Google Fiber."
Ars Technica received a similar non-answer from the company.
Granted Google's pivot to wireless could certainly work. The company is conducting wireless trials in the 71-76 GHz and 81-86 GHz millimeter wave bands, as well as the 3.5 GHz band, the 5.8 GHz band and the 24 GHz band. It seems fairly clear that Alphabet executives really don't know what they want to do just yet, but don't want to admit that to anybody. But confidence that Google Fiber would be the answer to solving the broadband mono/duopoly log jam is quickly wavering, something unaided by Google's bizarre refusal to be clear about the direction the project is headed.