from the a-little-something-called-competition dept
When Google Fiber launched back in 2010, it was heralded 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. Google got endless free press for doing something truly disruptive. And in markets where Google Fiber was deployed, prices dropped thanks to this added competition (fancy that!).
The fun didn’t last.
In late 2016, a new era of Alphabet execs began getting cold feet about the high costs and slow returns 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 also remained stuck in neutral.
But there are some faint indications that the Google Fiber freeze might be thawing somewhat. Last year, Google announced it had started working with officials in West Des Moines, Iowa on a potential expansion into the city. More recently, the company indicated it was expanding into Mesa, Arizona. And it’s also pushing harder into select portions of Utah:
“We’ve expanded to a bunch of new cities around our Utah footprint. We’ve also expanded to Smyrna, for example, around Tennessee, within our Nashville footprint,” Strama told Government Technology. “We’ll continue to be expanding around our existing footprint for the long term.”
To be clear, many of these efforts remain somewhat… modest, and it’s clear Google Fiber’s overall ambitions have scaled back. In a country where 83 million live under a broadband monopoly, and somewhere between 20-40 Americans lack any broadband at all (see our recent report on this), some scattered deployments in limited portions of mid-tier cities can only go so far.
Still, it’s good to see Google trying all the same. For a while there after the freeze, it seemed entirely possible the company could pack it in and sell the network (much like it sold out its principles on concepts like net neutrality). And while Google Fiber (much like Google) isn’t the same disruptive force it was in 2010, when it comes to mediocre U.S. broadband, every last bit helps.