Last week it was revealed that Google Fiber might be scaling down, both in number of new cities and in staff size. It is not a surprising move for a brand that has never managed to gain marketshare even close to what they had predicted. This lack of customer acceptance would, naturally, have led to financial troubles for the brand.
While parent company Alphabet might be concerned about how to handle the news, AT&T seems to be enjoying what they are hearing. AT&T and other telecom companies have said for years that building out a market, especially into the far reaches of a market, is difficult and expensive. Consumers have complained that other countries have internet speeds above that in the US, and carriers have always responded by saying that smaller, denser countries are easier to roll out major upgrades.
AT&T VP of Federal Regulatory Joan Marsh, who oversees many of the stumbling blocks that make these build-outs so difficult and expensive, wrote a blog post in which she explains why Google has not succeeded the way they thought they would. In it, she talks about Google's misunderstanding of how pole access works, the intricacies of interacting with local governments and the challenges of getting permits block-to-block.
Google Fiber will no doubt continue its broadband experiments, while coming up with excuses for its shortcomings and learning curves. It will also no doubt continue to seek favoritism from government at every level. Just last week Google Fiber threatened the Nashville City Council that it would stop its fiber build if an ordinance Google Fiber drafted wasn't passed. Instead of playing by the same rules as everyone else building infrastructure, Google Fiber demands special treatment and indeed in some places is getting it, unfairly.
Google Fiber still complains it's too hard... and costs too much... and takes too long... even as it's reported that Google Fiber will now try to do all this with half its current workforce. Meanwhile, without excuses or finger-pointing, and without presenting ultimatums to cities in exchange for service, AT&T continues to deploy fiber and to connect our customers to broadband services in communities across the country. Welcome to the broadband network business, Google Fiber. We'll be watching your next move from our rear view mirror. Oh, and pardon our dust.
It will be interesting to see how Google Fiber decides to proceed. Will they rely on their Webpass acquisition to avoid poles and city ordinances? Will they finish the cities they are currently working on and abandon the project? Obviously, only time will tell, but I suspect, like Marsh, that they will continue their experiment with the same zeal and confusion with which they started. Marsh's view of that future looks like this,
Google Fiber discovers that wireless networks are expensive to build as well and learns that microwave broadband may work well in dense urban areas, particularly where supported by higher cost commercial services, but offers tougher economics when trying to serve residential customers.