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Google Fiber hits pause

Google is scaling back its fibre to the home plans. While work will continue in cities where it has already launched or that are under construction, there will be no expansion into new territories for the time being, Craig Barratt, SVP, Alphabet and CEO of Access announced via a blog post.

Barratt also revealed that he will be stepping down from his CEO position, although he will remain on board as an advisor.

The news comes five years after Google said it would roll out fibre in Kansas City, and nearly two years after it announced an accelerated expansion to as many as 34 cities (see Google scales up its gigabit ambition).

The venture has been successful, growing its subscriber base and revenues, according to Barratt.

“Five years [ago] … gigabit residential speeds were unheard of, built-from-the-ground-up Fiberhood designs and builds were as yet unproven, and a great customer experience simply didn’t exist. Since then, we have reshaped the landscape – these innovations are becoming more commonplace (which we all can agree is great for everyone, particularly for consumers!),” wrote Barratt.

But as the landscape has changed, Google says it must update its plans by “making changes to focus our business and product strategy. Importantly, the plan enhances our focus on new technology and deployment methods to make superfast Internet more abundant than it is today.”

Technologies like G.fast have brought speeds to copper that were unheard of five years ago, and wireless technologies are now gigabit-capable. An indication that it is doing more than just exploring alternatives to fibre, Google recently purchased wireless service provider Webpass, at a single stroke adding five new cities to the list of those it serves with high-speed broadband.

Meanwhile, its fibre roll-outs have hit some snags. The roll-out in Nashville, Tennessee, has reportedly been delayed by the need for other service providers to perform “make ready” work on utility poles, before Google can attach its own wires. In Louisville, Kentucky, operators have gone on the offensive, by legally challenging new rules enacted by the city authorities to streamline pole deployment.

Barratt’s words suggest the halt will only be temporary, however. “We’re ever grateful to these cities for their ongoing partnership and patience, and we’re confident we’ll have an opportunity to resume our partnership discussions once we’ve advanced our technologies and solutions,” he wrote.

That won’t be much consolation to the employees in these areas, who can expect to lose their jobs.

“Our vision remains: to connect more people to superfast and abundant Internet,” according to Barratt. But it’s now unclear what role fibre will play in Google’s future plans.

 

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