Google Fiber’s Promise To Light Up America Falls Short With Too Many Anti-Competitive Roadblocks

Google Fiber

Google at one point has aspirations of ushering in a new era of broadband connectivity, and specifically high-speed connections of 1Gbps and higher. This initiative was given a name, Google Fiber, with roll outs in select parts of the country. For a period of time, it was not difficult to imagine a future in which Google and its partners would dominate the high-speed Internet infrastructure, but it was not to be. The promises Google made fell by the wayside, in part because competing ISPs made things difficult.

Before Google changed its trajectory to wireless, it met with resistance in trying to deploy fiber connections in some areas. For example, AT&T fought a decision by a Louisville council to allow third-party companies to access and install equipment on utility poles. The council had voted 23-0 in favor of granting third-party access, which would have helped Google to expand its service to certain Kentucky residents. But AT&T sued on the grounds the council lacked the jurisdiction to allow such a thing.

Comcast did the same thing, alongside AT&T, with regards to utility poles in California's Silicon Valley. It also sued the city of Nashville. And yet another ISP, Charter Communications (now Spectrum), sued the city of Louisville, Kentucky, for giving what it considered preferential treatment to Google Fiber (and also to AT&T). Charter claimed in its lawsuit that Google and AT&T were given sweetheart franchise deals with the city.

Anti-competitive roadblocks slowed Google's progress, and ultimately helped deter the tech giant from continuing to pursue fiber roll outs. It was challenging enough without the legal battles—even when everything goes right, deploying fiber is expensive. It's the reason Google often partnered with ISPs to use their existing fiber networks, though Google inevitably faced the prospect of digging up streets and installing its own cables in some areas, especially if it continued to expand.

Things took a turn in late 2016 when Google decided to hit the pause button and focus on wireless deployments instead. Google's also seen a fair bit of executive turnover in its Fiber division. It's now unclear what the future holds in broadband from Google, though it's not likely to be what it could have been.

Thumbnail/Top Image Source: Flickr via LBJ Library