What’s behind the Google Fiber delays in California’s Silicon Valley, and what could that mean for the rest of the country? Google’s installation of 1Gbps fiber-optic internet service in several Silicon Valley cities has been put on hold while the company considers infrastructure alternatives, according to The Mercury News and Ars Technica.
San Jose, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, and Palo Alto were and still are on the list for superspeedy internet access, according to city officials and Google. The cities were recently surprised to learn the schedules have been pushed back. Mike Fuller, Mountain View public works director, said, “We didn’t expect it because we were working on what was their plan at the time.”
In San Jose, final permits that were ready in May marked the expected launch of a three-year construction project. Estimates were that 60 percent of the fiber-optic cable would be underground and 40 percent aerial, on utility poles. Almost 100 employees set to install Google Fiber in San Jose last month were informed of the delay and offered transfers to work on an unrelated project in San Diego. According to fiber-optic installer Salvador Bustamonte, “They said that Google was going to re-evaluate this whole project because they were thinking of going aerial.”
Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc. is in the process of buying point-to-point wireless data company Webpass, Inc. That deal is expected to be done by the end of summer. Because Webpass’s technology offers internet service at the same gigabyte speed as Google Fiber, once the acquisition is complete, Google will have three choices: cables laid underground, cables strung pole-to-pole,and point-to-point wireless.
Digging up city streets to run cable underground is time-consuming and costly. According to The Mercury News, AT&T and Comcast have been making it difficult for Google to use existing, privately owned utility poles. If point-to-point wireless can provide service as fast as fiber-optic cable, the Webpass acquisition could keep Google out of the ground and off the poles, and into the air.
Google Fiber spokesperson Veronica Navarrete confirmed the company is still talking with the Silicon Valley cities but said it “takes time” to deploy “the latest technologies in alignment with our product road map while understanding local considerations and challenges.”
From the national perspective, The Mercury News reported, “Google Fiber is already up and running in seven other major cities, outside California, but a source familiar with the project says the company is putting additional fiber locations on the back burner to reassess the technology and explore a cheaper alternative — wireless service that does not require expensive, capital-intensive, and time-consuming installation of fiber cables under the ground. The source said Google is now focusing more on aerial installation.”
For cities on the Google Fiber lists — in California and other states — delays in gigabyte internet have to be frustrating. If, however, it turns out that new technologies or combinations thereof enable faster and less expensive gigabyte internet rollouts, many more cities could benefit.