I have been a Google Fiber supporter, believing that Google’s investments and policy goals would move the United States forward, away from the monopolies of entrenched incumbents. When others claimed that Google was abandoning fiber, I argued that Google had not yet decided… it was arguing internally about the right path.
But now I think it is pretty clear that Google is done with significant fiber investment, particularly for single family residential homes. I have strong doubts that Google will continue with the Huntsville-type approaches of leasing dark fiber, but I hope that will continue.
Google’s decision to pursue other, likely more lucrative investments like AI and autonomous driving may be more profitable, but it is certainly disappointing for those of us working to ensure everyone has high quality Internet access.
It is important to note that companies like US Internet, Ting, and Sonic, among others have establishing strong businesses competing against the biggest telephone and cable companies. Google’s exit is not evidence that ISPs cannot do well. It is evidence that Google has other opportunities and that its large scale focus on building its own fiber had too slow of a return for its Silicon Valley expectations.
This brings me to something I wrote 5 years ago, not actually expecting that Google would give up after only 5 years.
If I were moving south of Minnesota in the near future, it would be to Chattanooga or Lafayette, not Kansas City. Who knows what Google will be doing in 5 years? We know exactly what EPB and LUS will be doing.
Wow. I think Kansas City is definitely better off for having worked with Google to enable that network. But there is no doubt in my mind that local investments are a better bet than hoping some distant company will save your community. I think this article understates Google’s impact in KC significantly, but we are once again reminded that there is much more to benefiting from a network than simply laying fiber.
There is a lot of work that must be done to take full advantage of a modern network to benefit an entire community. This is why at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, we put a greater focus on local investments with local buy-in and support. Where people recognize they have to do more work and can’t count on a unicorn to save the day.
This is not a criticism of the folks in Kansas City that worked really hard to maximize the impact of Google’s investment. I can think of many people that ensured Google’s impact went far beyond cheaper Internet access for tech folks. But for communities that are trying to figure out what they can do, I would look to Santa Monica, Ammon, Sandy, Lafayette, Westminster, RS Fiber, Lincoln, and Huntsville for lessons, not those who temporarily win the lottery with a sudden non-local investment.
This article is a part of MuniNetworks. The original piece can be found here.