yingw787 10 days ago

When I interned at AT&T a few years ago, I asked a manager I respected whether they were worried about Google Fiber coming in and eating their lunch.

"No", he said. "We'll sue them for every mile of fiber they lay down".

I can understand why they would make that play. It's kind of the only play they have. AT&T and Verizon innovate enough to remain...okay...but they're not exactly Google. The only way they would win is to get dirty and turn fiber laying into Google's very own Stalingrad. And between starting a new, massive, low-margin (by advertising's standards), and capital-intensive business, and keeping salaries high and employees happy, Google chose the latter and bowed out because honestly, dying on this hill isn't a smart move.

I doubt Google wants to do this. Pulling out at this stage, when Fiber hadn't actually provided the "nudge" to internet speeds and throughput that would make Google and Internet companies more powerful, would not place Google at a place of negotiating strength. It makes Google look bad and cements the ISP monopolies' notion that Google pulled out because they physically can't bear the pain and so they remain safe, not because Google chose to, can do this whenever they want, and have the ISPs at their mercy. It probably also burned a few bridges, if there were bridges at all, and makes weighing favors in a (hopefully not long-term) post-net-neutrality world swing towards the other major power players like Amazon or Facebook.

  • yingw787 10 days ago

    I do think the significance of this is cities realizing there is no Disney prince riding in on a white horse to save them, and taking their own futures into their own hands. I'm hoping there's enough "anchor cities/regions", like Nashville/RTP/Kansas City, that have contingency plans and referendums ready for an infrastructure push at the local level if Fiber pulls out there, to prevent all white-collar talent from drifting towards the coasts and leave a complete vacuum everywhere else. It'll take a lot of organization, money, guile, and community trust to push through ISP brainwashing, but the cities that succeed will hopefully become the few "shining cities on a hill" that could save an entire state from economic irrelevance. Hopefully, when the pendulum swings the other way on urban centralization, they'll emerge as good alternatives to raise children, work remotely, and live a good life.

    • sesutton 10 days ago

      I think people here in Raleigh would hardly notice if Google Fiber pulled out. They only ever offered it in a very small area and AT&T has been offering gigabit to to large parts of the area for several years now.

      • dwighttk 10 days ago

        Yeah, in Durham, I've seen a lot of AT&T guys running fiber... I've only gotten a Google T-Shirt and seen an apparently empty office space downtown with a Google Fiber sign in the window.

    • sangnoir 10 days ago

      > I'm hoping there's enough "anchor cities/regions", like Nashville/RTP/Kansas City, that have contingency plans and referendums ready for an infrastructure push at the local level if Fiber pulls out there, to prevent all white-collar talent from drifting towards the coasts and leave a complete vacuum everywhere else.

      Which is why the cable cartel is lobbying at state-level to make deny cities that option - conveniently, those cities are in red states.

    • Balvarez 10 days ago

      Sadly I don't see Nashville creating a municipal ISP. Google fiber has been such a disappointment here. It's only available to a very small area.

      • JonathonW 10 days ago

        Even if there were the (local) political will for municipal fiber in Nashville, it would get blocked at the state level-- too many state politicians in AT&T and Comcast's pockets.

        Same thing happened when EPB tried to expand their fiber network in the Chattanooga area.

    • kortilla 10 days ago

      White collar talent doesn’t follow fiber installs. You can’t even get fiber in many places in Mountain View of all places.

    • BubRoss 10 days ago

      There are spots in Kansas City, MO where you can get gigabit fiber from three different providers.

  • debatem1 10 days ago

    I worked with the fiber team and I have to say this assessment is super accurate. We fought for every fucking mile, but Google is soft. It just doesn't have the pain tolerance for this fight.

    • itronitron 10 days ago

      Do you know why they didn't run fiber on the poles? Since they got special accommodations to do that it is unclear to me why they didn't use that route.

      • debatem1 10 days ago

        Fiber had all kinds of institutional beliefs that were never revisited, and this one was acquired before my time. I have no idea why that decision was made, and honestly I can't say whether it was a good one or a bad one.

  • rayiner 10 days ago

    People focus on Louisville because Google created a legal issue there by asking the city to pass a “one touch make ready” law that would allow Google’s contractors to move AT&T’s lines and equipment. I’m sure AT&T didn’t file that law suit out of principle, but it’s hard to blame AT&T for not going along with that plan.

    But what about all the other cities where there was no such law suits? What about cities like Baltimore, that offered to roll out the red carpet for Google, but which Google turned down? Did law suits in two cities actually halt Fiber expansion, or is that just a fig leaf for Google abandoning a business line that will never make the kind of money it demands of its business units?

    • scarface74 10 days ago

      Why rollout the red carpet for Google? AT&T is more than willing and able to expand its fiber gigabit internet.

      I hate to admit it, but we haven’t had any issues with AT&T gigabit ethernet service. It’s $70 a month with no additional fees, rock solid and unlike Comcast, we actually get great (900Mbps) upload speeds.

      • krageon 10 days ago

        You're paying a lot of money for a gigabit connection and you don't get full speed. You are apparently happy about that, I'm afraid I don't follow.

        • scarface74 10 days ago

          You mean 940Mbps up and down isn’t “full speed”?

          So did you sneak into almost any room in my gigabit wired house and do a speed test?

          I have a wired computer in my office and two 4K AppleTVs and they all report 900Mbps+ up and down.

          My son’s wired PS4 reports around 600Mbps.

          I also bet that AT&T won’t abandon my neighborhood and become uninterested like Google does for basically everything in three years.

          • heavenlyblue 8 days ago

            Do they keep that speed 24/7?

            • scarface74 8 days ago

              I am not running speed test 24/7. I can definitely say my internet speed has never been the bottleneck. The few times that I have noticed getting a consistent drop to only 600Mbps, I just rebooted my router.

              Are you saying that they’re are ISPs that never oversubscribe their lines anywhere along the route?

  • anonymous5133 10 days ago

    It did have a positive impact though because AT&T and Verizon started actually building out their fiber networks more aggressively when they saw google entering the space. I live in Orange County, CA and AT&T out here started building out fiber when they saw Google building in Irvine, CA. AT&T knows that if they could just "rope off" google to a small area then their initial investment wouldn't really be worth it.

    • yingw787 10 days ago

      My concern is whether the ISPs will find expanding and maintaining their fiber infrastructure necessary if Google continues to pull out of the market, or whether it'll end up crushed like the EV-1 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Motors_EV1).

      Is there enough demand already generated in industries requiring significant network throughput (e.g. e-sports, industrial IoT, or elsewhere) that ISPs will shoot themselves in the foot if they collapse the market? I personally don't use enough data to justify a Gigabit connection. My friends who stream video and game online might. Hopefully the latter will pull us into the future, but I don't know for sure.

      • AnIdiotOnTheNet 10 days ago

        > My concern is whether the ISPs will find expanding and maintaining their fiber infrastructure necessary if Google continues to pull out of the market.

        I can answer that: they won't. ISPs showed they have the capacity to expand and improve and bring better service to people when they're challenged to do so, but it is equally obvious that they give not two fucks about anywhere they have no competition, which is basically everywhere.

        The Google of the past that did cool stuff was our one ticket to disrupting this bullshit and getting it fixed, and Google the corporate big business machine of today killed that hope.

        And if you think it'll get better as other parts of the world continue to pass us by, all you have to do is look at our health care system to see how that works out.

    • reaperducer 10 days ago

      AT&T and Verizon started actually building out their fiber networks more aggressively when they saw google entering the space

      That doesn't seem to mean anything when all the company cares about is next quarter's stock performance.

      When I moved to Seattle, Verizon had recently abandoned its fiber network there, and my neighbors were so mad about it that they didn't trust any ISP.

      I tried to Google it, but Big G disappoints. Perhaps someone who lived in Seattle (especially the East Side) and remembers this can shed some light on it.

      • StudentStuff 10 days ago

        Frontier bought said fiber network, I'd hardly call it abandoned. Additionally, none of that fiber was ran in Seattle proper, but rather in the far suburbs and ex-urbs of the north & eastside, starting at Lynnwood on the north end and staying north of Bellevue on the eastside.

        If anything, Verzion plowed a ton of money to run fiber to most homes, then saw poor uptake and a small telco they could dupe into taking on massive debt (Frontier). This has forced Frontier to offer good deals like 200Mbps/200Mbps for $40 a month. Centurylink in the city proper starts at $45 for 40Mbps/5Mbps via fiber, and Comcast is $30 plus fees for 60Mbps with a 1TB cap.

  • toast0 10 days ago

    I suspect, now that they've started, AT&T is going to continue to build out their GPON fiber through most of their network. In a lot of areas, they do have real issues with the copper wire that's on the poles, and they've figured out how to make rewiring not too bad, at least where the residential wiring is above ground.

    They've got a significant advantage over Google here. Where they run DSL, they've got a customer base, and an installer base. They already have rights to the poles. They've already got contacts in the municipalities to add their new equipment boxes. They worked out how to order the fiber spools with connectors placed for the splitters at each pole. It's just a matter of buying and placing the equipment, upgrading their existing customers, and then winning customers from cable.

    For customers with underground copper wiring, it's a tougher sell. And there are clearly parts of the AT&T network that AT&T doesn't care to service; places that never got ADSL2 or VDSL (aka U-Verse) likely have pretty low customer numbers these days, and it seems like they'd probably not get upgraded either.

    • scarface74 10 days ago

      My parents lives in a smallish city - 77K population and shrinking. They’ve had AT&T DSL for years. AT&T hasn’t sold DSL for years there but for some reason keep it active for their few existing customers.

      • toast0 9 days ago

        Yeah... those are exactly the kinds of places I don't expect AT&T to roll out fiber to. As long as the equipment keeps working, they'll probably continue to offer the service to existing customers. But they're not likely to fix line quality issues if they don't affect voice service; and they're not likely to stop voice service if you have a strong state regulator.

        • scarface74 9 days ago

          They also have the cable internet. My parents wanted to keep both. She got cable internet one summer when I stayed with them and I needed to work remotely. Cable sucks about as badly. The speed and the price is about what you would expect (35/5) but the 300Gb data cap is ridiculous.

          I’m surprised that AT&T doesn’t just try to transistion their few remaining DSL customers to the cable company. I’m sure that the cable company would offer a bounty for them and keeping the internet backend must cost AT&T something.

  • josteink 10 days ago

    > No", he said. "We'll sue them for every mile of fiber they lay down".

    When companies can sue other companies for providing them with actual competition, you know customers are getting so utterly screwed. I don’t even understand how this can be legal.

    So glad I don’t live in the US.

    • acct1771 9 days ago

      Because the politicians have sold legislation making it legal, and nobody stopped them.

      • Latteland 8 days ago

        A lot of legislation that benefits large and somewhat conservative conglomerates is created by ALEC, one of the most evil and destructive groups in the US. If you want more middle men and want to reduce competition on companies like AT&T, they are your friend. They write 'model laws' and give them to clueless conservative legislators. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Legislative_Exchange_...

ilovecaching 10 days ago

Let’s not forget that the real issue here is that American ISPs are a complete monopoly by Comcast and AT&T, companies made of pure greed. Small end sub ISPs have to claw for every strand of dark fiber. Google really shouldn’t be the answer though. We need to demand that politicians address the issue in the upcoming election before they start looking at the Silicon Valley giants.

  • colechristensen 10 days ago

    The best ISP in the country is in Minneapolis. $70/mo for symmetric 1 Gbps

    https://fiber.usinternet.com/

    They lay their own fiber terminating at your home and have been steadily covering the metro area.

    • bobwaycott 10 days ago

      Heh. We were the first US city to do it (Chattanooga), and are the best. ;)

      I led the team that worked on a bunch of software that supported the effort (behind the scenes and consumer-facing), and am glad to see other cities following—hopefully others will also copy EPB’s commitment to net neutrality and no caps. We’ve long had the same price (a couple bucks under $70) for the gig. Lowest offering here is symmetric 300meg currently. We even do 10gig to the home now.

    • scruple 10 days ago

      Does this scale to other metro areas, if other initiatives could be funded and started? If so, why isn't it happening in those other metros? If not, what makes the Twin Cities special?

      • colechristensen 10 days ago

        It went relatively slowly and started in sections of the city with the right customer demographics. The local government which is a big part of the equation seems to be generally a little more reasonable and less corrupt than is average.

        I am speculating it is capital intensive and not enormously profitable, and it is slow.

        • rayiner 10 days ago

          > It went relatively slowly and started in sections of the city with the right customer demographics. The local government which is a big part of the equation seems to be generally a little more reasonable and less corrupt than is average.

          That is also how Stockholm built out its fiber network. And, by the way, it is illegal in almost every city, because it would result in wealthier neighborhoods getting fiber first. That is the reason, for example, why Baltimore doesn’t have FiOS whole almost the whole rest of Maryland does.

          • njepa 10 days ago

            > That is also how Stockholm built out its fiber network.

            Stokab also had various mandates to connect or cooperate with schools, government, student housing, public(ly owned) housing and other entities. You would often get fiber in the equivalent "the projects" before someone in an affluent co-op. Without this I am not sure how well the approach would have worked.

            • rayiner 9 days ago

              Connecting a few government-owned buildings is a far cry from requirements in the US, where typically every area above a very low population threshold must be connected.

              • njepa 9 days ago

                I wasn't a few government-owned building so much as 25% of the housing stock, around a hundred thousand apartments, which were actually owned by the city at the time. (And that is just the publicly owned housing). As far as I know it wasn't subsidized as such, but paid for by profit from rents and rent increases (these are essentially rent controlled apartments).

    • acchow 9 days ago

      Apartment buildings built after 1995 in San Francisco can get Webpass. Symmetric 1 Gbps for $60/mth (or $550 annually).

    • scarface74 10 days ago

      AT&T offers the same deal in Atlanta.

  • vonmoltke 10 days ago

    > Let’s not forget that the real issue here is that American ISPs are a complete monopoly by Comcast and AT&T

    It doesn't change much, but you left out Verizon and Spectrum.

    • usefulcat 10 days ago

      True, but in any given market you'll be lucky to have even two of the above as competitors, let alone 3 or more.

  • rkangel 10 days ago

    The (next) brightest hope for something changing here is Starlink. I'm sure that Comcast and and AT&T will throw up every legal roadblock that they can, but universal 1 Gbps internet availability could really shake things up.

  • ianai 10 days ago

    Probably the mayors in the lineup would be most aware of this need.

  • onetimemanytime 10 days ago

    On the other hand, they laid the cables first, a very expensive undertaking.

    • ilovecaching 10 days ago

      Thanks to huge government subsidies that they squandered. They have promised time and time again to build better infra for hundreds of millions in tax payer dollars and we still have total crap. People who work for them are morally bankrupt.

      • kortilla 10 days ago

        Maybe unrestricted government handouts aren’t the best way to stimulate a market...

        • newsgremlin 10 days ago

          But the government doesn't own the lines, so unless they feel like nationalizing the utilities that's the only thing they can do. And I'm sure the lobbyists are making sure that doesn't happen too...

          It's a dirty racket for passing a lot of money between few hands.

jly 10 days ago

I'm a happy Google Fiber customer (Austin), and my neighborhood was deep-trenched. The results have been excellent, with near-zero reliability issues and a clean look on the street.

Unfortunately, not everyone is having the same experience. The perception here is that they are operating a shell of what the previous ambitions were. Service has been active in my area for close to 3 years now, but I have neighbors who have been on waitlists for months or years to get their house on the network, still being told to call back every few months.

It seems like any houses that missed the initial sign-up (now many years ago) are a crapshoot to ever receive service in a timely manner. Some streets that didn't receive enough sign-ups were never trenched, while adjacent streets were. Sometimes fiber is installed all the way to the house with months-long delays connecting to the network (splicing issues, conduit clog, etc). I've loved my service and it's been rock-solid, but there are certainly a lot of obstacles compared with traditional telecom providers.

  • EpicEng 10 days ago

    Same here in the burbs. Would love me some fiber, but it's never going to happen.

robocat 10 days ago

At many traffic light intersections, you can see where the trenches are used for inductive loop car sensors, with wire in them.

https://www.traffic-signal-design.com/vehicles_detected.htm

The trench is narrow, cut with a diamond saw, and the filler (tar?) doesn't come out.

The example photo of a failure in the article, showed a relatively wide trench, presumably width required for the microduct for blown/jetted fiber.

So maybe they used a trench that was too wide, and a filler that was unsuitable.

I have also seen microtrenchs used in New Zealand across private driveways (low traffic use).

I wonder how good the trials were of the filler? I sometimes see paint tests on the road (multiple lines of different product and different thicknesses, being tested by heavy, real traffic use).

esmi 10 days ago

I wish they provided some details on why the San Antonio and Nashville small trials didn’t scale to Louisville. If the issues were really so glaring and obvious it seems those efforts should have revealed them.

Edit: Looks like it didn’t actually work in those cities either. One wonders why the Louisville representatives missed this.

https://www.wsmv.com/news/repaving-streets-reveal-google-fib...

  • KennyFromIT 10 days ago

    Louisville's representatives likely missed that because they were wearing rose-colored glasses. They were thinking "big picture" about would a successful project could mean for the city and were ignoring the details. They were probably (rightly?) assuming that an organization like Google would be able to learn from their mistakes and "this time would be different". Really, it's hard to fault them for thinking this way, but just like every other situation in business, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

    • dwighttk 10 days ago

      hoping to get something for their $400K investment.

  • kalleboo 10 days ago

    Maybe it was so soon after those trials started that the problems hadn't shown up yet?

WhuzzupDomal 10 days ago

“The company also wanted to cover the trenches with epoxy, rather than the typical asphalt mix.”

Along with the rest, this outlines a basic problem that modern Google and other Silicon Valley companies have with technologies. The Google people have massive talent, capabilities, and funding. Yet the use this almost as a handicap nowadays. Because they have talent doesn’t mean they have a monopoly of it.

We have extensive testing of every conceivable paving and repair mathod done over 100+ years. Engineering colleges around the U.S. (and the world of course) have a massive legacy of tests. To go in and just guess your new idea is going to work for a new project just isn’t necessary in such basic technologies.

  • setquk 10 days ago

    Indeed.

    Epoxy even sounds like a stupid idea. I mean how are you going to repair that next time. It’s impossible to dig that stuff up.

    • kkarakk 10 days ago

      it's only a couple of inches deep, it sounds like "if there's a problem we'll tear it out and replace it" kinda deal

gz5 10 days ago

Would it be surprising to see Google pivot to 5G for the tech solution? I believe their business goal is still to control the access. Anyone see a realistic unit cost analyis for 5G in urban environments at maturity?

On the fiber side, I think cities need to build the infrastructure (and are often in a position to finance via low interest rate bonds etc), and then enable any party to lease/operate/compete on that infrastructure.

  • eeeeeeeeeeeee 10 days ago

    I have WebPass (webpass.net) in Denver, which is a company that Google acquired. It's mainly for residential multi-unit apartment buildings, though. I've had it for several years and it works extremely well. It uses point-to-point radios from their main node in the city to the top of your building, then you get an ethernet hookup in your unit.

    I almost always get in the ~700-800Mbps up and down range on ethernet connections, regardless of time of day. Never had any issues during snow, rain, fog, etc.

    My guess is that Google realized that fiber-to-the-home is the wrong strategy, and too costly, just as Verizon FIOS halted their rollout years before. And I believe even ATT only does fiber to a neighborhood and then coax to the home, right? It's sad to see, but the cost is astronomical and it's a lot harder to get cities/municipalities to let you dig things up.

    Especially for America with it having so much sprawl, a wireless solution will probably work better and the rollout will be quicker.

    • ocdtrekkie 10 days ago

      I know "fiber to the neighborhood and coax to the home" is how both Comcast and WOW operate. Note that coax can provide some fairly decent performance, with DOCSIS 3.1, you can do gigabit down a coax cable, though the networks are still built asymmetrically, so you're only going to see 50 Mbps back up on a connection like that.

      • eeeeeeeeeeeee 10 days ago

        Agreed. DOCSIS 3.1 is nice. I think most of the bad news around coax is because a lot of cable operators overload their nodes.

        • ocdtrekkie 10 days ago

          Indeed, and the lack of upload is a design choice, not a physical limitation of the medium, as far as I know. Coax is fairly durable, is less challenging to install and much easier to repair, and as long as they can push the speed over it, I really see no reason to run fiber into the home.

    • jedberg 10 days ago

      > And I believe even ATT only does fiber to a neighborhood and then coax to the home, right?

      No, I have a fiber going right to my dmark. I watched them string it and terminate myself.

      • edwhitesell 10 days ago

        In the past, the answer was sometimes. About 6 years ago I lived in a Dallas suburb where I had ATT fiber directly to my house. A friend a few miles away, in Dallas, had copper. We had the same services, same prices, same hardware, etc.

        • jedberg 10 days ago

          That was their DSL service though right? like 100MB? Not gigabit? I'm talking about the gigabit service specifically. I don't think they run those with copper, because the spec says you can't go more than 100m on copper and get gig speeds.

          • edwhitesell 10 days ago

            Hmm, maybe I guess. It was all under the U-Verse brand at the time. I remember they offered something like a 150Mb download, but it was around $300/month.

  • ecshafer 10 days ago

    Does Google own the rights necessary to radio frequencies to do 5g? That seems like the major blocker.

  • LockNess0 10 days ago

    The latter is pretty much the Swedish model, by the way.

    It makes sense. Fibre optic cable is mostly a solved solution, just like copper wire for electricity and pipes for gas, water and sewage.

aksss 10 days ago

As the article says, the problem set is multifaceted. Nanotrenching doesn't work, and laying infrastructure in any case is super expensive. In a green field implementation in your privately owned parking lot, it would be an expensive undertaking in terms of material and time & motion, tooling. Now add in permitting requirements from the city to do the exact same mechanical exercise, plus coordination to shut city streets temporarily, enviro-impact studies, etc, etc, etc. Then add project managers, regulatory experts & lawyers to deal with the city and navigate it all. The costs are huge. It's annoying to me that some people gloss over the role of civil administration as a market barrier, but by its nature Telecom as an industry has high capital and expense requirements from installation to O&M. A lot of folks don't fully appreciate this until they work in the industry or like Google, try to revolutionize it.

paxys 10 days ago

The failure of Google Fiber paints a very bleak picture of the future of internet infrastructure, or even all communication in this country. If Google cannot compete with the status quo, who can?

  • vb6lives 10 days ago

    They tried to lay fiber in 2in trenches instead of typical 6in trenches. Then left when it didn't work. This isn't Goliath beating David. This is David throwing a rock, missing, and going home.

    • wincy 10 days ago

      I’m not sure David and Goliath is an apt metaphor when Google has a market cap 4x that of a broadband competitor Comcast.

      • Someone1234 10 days ago

        Market cap is only relevant if both companies had a singular focus. Google isn't investing heavily into Google Fiber, and certainly not compared to Comcast.

      • sodosopa 10 days ago

        David vs Satan is more apt

    • walrus01 10 days ago

      There is micro trenched surface inlaid fiber with grouting ALL OVER downtown Vancouver BC. It's been in successful operation for 15+ years.

      It is a lot deeper than 2 inches.

      Google tried to do the backfilling/slot filling with some sort of rubber compound or something that was not proper pavement grouting.

      Google and their contractor fucked up the OSI layer 1.

      The way it's done with the "teraspan" (company name) method in Vancouver BC is not economical to service individual residences, or small buildings, it's a set of networks built for several different companies' last mile fiber access networks to service major class A office towers in the downtown core. The diamond blade concrete saw + microduct + cable + slot filling setup is way too costly in dollars per meter of installed fiber to be used for something like Louisville.

    • elliotec 10 days ago

      I’m in Salt Lake City and they have the fiber coming to my house strung up on telephone poles, not sure what this “inches under ground” thing means or why it matters. Google fiber has been fantastic for us since day one and it’s sad they aren’t moving forward with it.

      • sithadmin 10 days ago

        Google tried a 'micro trenching' approach to laying fiber in Lousiville - basically, channels cut into pavement in which fiber is laid, then filled in with epoxy on top. As it turns out, Google's specific implementation of this in Lousiville was highly unreliable.

        General overview of micro-trenching: https://www.ppc-online.com/blog/best-practice-for-installing...

      • mjevans 10 days ago

        The use of trenches, micro of otherwise, is for running in locations that either don't have the poles or for which (most of the US) the poles aren't actually owned by the municipality and rented under FRAND terms to anyone that wants to hang a wire (by licenced and bonded independent contractors).

      • tedivm 10 days ago

        If you read the article that you're commenting on they make it pretty clear what this “inches under ground” thing means and why it matters.

    • AareyBaba 10 days ago

      Is there any technical analysis or reports available online on why the trenches didn't work ? I've always wondered if we could use our network of roads to bring internet to the doorstep by laying lines just below the road surface.

      • drenvuk 10 days ago

        You don't need much technical analysis here. Shallow trenches break more easily, leading to higher maintenance costs. 2 inches is nothing.

      • Faaak 10 days ago

        Trenches _do_ work, but they must have a minimum depth (>20cm), not just 8cm ones like Google tried.

      • sbov 10 days ago

        At 2 inches its not even deep enough to survive a road repavement.

      • Mr_Shiba 10 days ago

        > technical analysis

        Probably not, but common sense should be enough. It is 2 inches, on a road...

    • quest88 10 days ago

      Is there any particular two inch trenches were dug? Was it too expensive? Extra permits?

      • teachrdan 10 days ago

        If I understand your question correctly, they used 2" trenches because shallower === faster. However, they were so shallow--and the surfacing material so brittle--that the fibers ended up getting damaged too often. So they corrected with slightly deeper trenches afterwards.

        • vb6lives 10 days ago

          Shallower === cheaper

          • MrEldritch 10 days ago

            Faster also === cheaper, so "shallower === faster" implies "shallower === cheaper" anyway.

    • paxys 10 days ago

      They aren't exactly dominating in markets outside Louisville either.

    • madengr 10 days ago

      They are stalled in other cities too, where they are using traditional methods.

  • jrockway 10 days ago

    Google gave up on fiber and this is the version that is running on fumes. I worked on Google Fiber until early 2017. I was informed that it was cancelled and that I had to find another team. I did, and didn't like the new team, so I quit. Many of my coworkers on Fiber did the same. Of the people I've remained in contact with, exactly zero of them currently work on Fiber.

    I now work at a different fiber ISP. The industry is fine, it's just that Google sort of gave up. Even if they went full-on "we changed our mind" after I left, it's not the original team anymore. A lot of knowledge has disappeared into the void. You hear "invest in teams, not in products," around here a lot. That's not what Google did.

    • walrus01 10 days ago

      Industry perspective here. I work for an ISP that does gigabit class last mile residential access. Google gave up because they couldn't make the ROI numbers work. I doubt whether it was ever intended to be economically viable. It was a PR stunt.

      You simply can't promise gigabit class last mile service to every residence in a city, and actually build it with a reasonable dollar-per-house cost, and make a return on investment on it. Not unless you have an incredibly low cost to deploy it, basically a city and local electrical utility that has handed you ROW (right-of-way) on a silver platter. Or unless you are already the incumbent telecom operator, and have ROW literally everywhere, and can overbuild your POTS network with modern GPON stuff, as Centurylink is doing in parts of Seattle.

      Or unless you bring the dollars-per-unit cost way down, by focusing on MDU (multiple dwelling unit) such as WaveG and Webpass have done.

      It costs a lot less to light up an 85 suite condo building with 1000BaseT to each suite, than it does to build last mile GPON or active ethernet fiber to 85 individual houses.

      • jrockway 10 days ago

        If you have to borrow money, it's expensive. If you just have the money sitting in your treasury, it's a lot more viable.

        I never saw the Google Fiber cancellation as a cost issue. It felt to me like more of a scale issue. You have to live in Kansas City to pay Google for fiber, but you can buy an Android device from anywhere in the world. Thus, one of those things is going to make more money than the other, and it makes sense to focus on that.

        The economics of ISPs, the way I see it, depend on:

        1) Cost of money. (Free if you're Google, 18% a year if you're some guy using your credit card.)

        2) Expected lifetime of wireline Internet. Wireless internet isn't getting _worse_ every year. While a lot of us here won't be giving up our wired connections any time soon, many people already have. Their phone is their computer. They can't even plug an Ethernet cable into it if they want to.

        If your fiber is going to be good for 50 years... after you've paid off the loan, it costs basically nothing to provide Internet service over. And yet, people will pay more than $0/month to have Internet service. So economically it works out... if fiber continues to be relevant. That is the if that scares people. (The other issue is that it's hard to find free money unless you are, say, Google.)

        • walrus01 10 days ago

          As for #2, I don't see high speed residential broadband (fixed line, whether VDSL2/g.fast, DOCSIS3.0/3.1, or fiber based) going away any time soon in the North American market.

          In developing nation environments where there is no pre-existing wireline infrastructure, and incomes are much more limited, it's now incredibly common for people to only have a phone with LTE radio in it, and no fixed internet at home. Examples would be in Rawalpindi, Pakistan or in small cities in Turkey.

          But I don't see people downloading 90GB xbox one games on LTE last mile connections any time soon, even with carriers' advancements in fixed LTE and coming "5G" stuff. The capacity of last mile wired connections will always be much greater. And the typical residential consumer in the US or Canada has much more ability to pay a $75 monthly recurring bill for proper home broadband, on top of their cellphone costs.

      • greedo 10 days ago

        Lincoln Nebraska has done it. Google Allo...

        • walrus01 10 days ago

          Lincoln, NE is near 99% aerial ftth. The economics for aerial pole/strand based ftth are very different than if you need to start trenching, boring, directional drilling and doing things underground.

          • greedo 4 days ago

            Where are you getting this figure? My deployment is trenched, and other than the downtown areas, I haven't heard of anyone using poles.

  • bovermyer 10 days ago

    That's not the lesson I'd learn here.

    This seems like Google has not yet learned how civil engineering works, which is a crucial component in internet infrastructure.

    It's unfortunate that Louisville is getting bit hard here.

    • AnIdiotOnTheNet 10 days ago

      The lesson is never trust in the longevity of Google products, a lesson they keep teaching us over and over.

    • smueller1234 10 days ago

      I would also point to the engineering required to build and operate some of the world's largest datacenter and wan infrastructure.

  • geodel 10 days ago

    Municipalities. They are world class experts in running broadband infrastructure if only evil ISPs let them.

    • wincy 10 days ago

      Certainly. It took TWO YEARS of negotiating with Louisville before Google could start construction. If the municipalities do it themselves, there’s no small time politicians hands to grease, and the city can start construction immediately.

      • ryanhuff 10 days ago

        If the municipalities build the infrastructure and bid out the service in renewable contracts, seems like the politicians would get theirs every 3-5 years.

  • DanHulton 10 days ago

    I mean, this is almost exactly the kind of massive public project that the government is there for.

    • robocat 10 days ago

      NZ has done this:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultra-Fast_Broadband

      Covering 87% of the population by the end of 2022. It is a public–private partnership of the government with four companies with total government investment of [USD 1 billion].

      It was rolled out below budget. Then again, look at Australia trying to do the same thing, and failing (incumbent telco and govt), which might be more similar to what would happen in the US.

      Size, geography, and population of NZ is somewhat similar to Oregon, if that helps. As written by someone from Oregon: "When it comes to Oregon and New Zealand, there are similarities galore. Both have a largish city in the north corner. Both have around 4 million in population. And the square mileage of their land masses differ by only 5000 (98000 and 103,000, respectively). The scenery is spectacular. Micro-breweries are aplenty. And Kiwis “get” coffee. They really do. In other words, I feel at home here."

    • notJim 10 days ago

      I agree with this, and I think the general slogan of "broadband for all" could be a winning one for a politician (though they have to actually deliver.) My parents live in a rural area and the fastest internet they can get can barely stream Netflix on a good day, and only as long as no one else is using it. Many people have it much worse. Access to high-quality broadband seems like an issue that could span the rural/urban divide.

      • ocdtrekkie 10 days ago

        This isn't likely to span the divide, when you consider that urban folks probably won't like having to pay drastically higher taxes to cover not their cheap connection, but to cover the hundred thousand dollar project to trench fiber out to one dude's cabin fifty miles from civilization. And then to do that over and over for every isolated place in the country.

        There's a reason rural Internet sucks: It's expensive to build and unprofitable to operate. That's why ISPs don't want to build them out.

        • bluGill 10 days ago

          Note that the same thing was said about rural electric. Rural areas often got electric when the locals banded together and created a coop and surprise electric to rural areas is now common and not much more expensive than cities (the coop doesn't have a profit motive as the customers are also the owners)

        • linuxftw 10 days ago

          What about roads? What about electricity? Why should rural people have those when it adds extra tax burden to those in the city? What about the postal service?

          • dodobirdlord 10 days ago

            In all seriousness, why should they? There are obvious diminishing returns and there's a point where the distances get large enough and the number of people gets small enough that it's unjustifiable. Opportunity costs exist, and it follows that advocating for money to be spent inefficiently is bad.

            • linuxftw 10 days ago

              I never said they should. I actually don't believe there should be goverment owned roads or utilities (or subsidized utilities in general).

              Nobody actually cares about the rural poor. No transportation options, limited services in general. It's just laughable how people consider themselves so giving, unless those people live outside the city, then screw those people.

              • dodobirdlord 8 days ago

                I don't think there is a point to be made here. It's unreasonable to suggest that people should deliberately target their giving in an inefficient manner.

        • madengr 10 days ago

          If there are already power and telephone poles, they can run fiber. I don’t understand why the whole, damn country could be wired for power, but they can’t run a dammed fiber cable.

      • akhilcacharya 10 days ago

        Democrats have been advocating for this as long as I can remember.

        The Trump campaign advocated for it in their 5G-nationalization scheme that the Trump White House for some reason wasn't aware of ([0] ?) and likely wouldn't work because of the nature of 5G penetration.

        The problem is "broadband for all" is it's an issue that doesn't register as much as the culture war.

        [0] https://www.politico.com/story/2019/03/03/trump-administrati...

  • newnewpdro 10 days ago

    At this point it's more noteworthy for Google to not abandon any project.

    This is indicative of nothing more than Google behaving consistently.

  • MiddleEndian 10 days ago

    I live in Boston, where Google had a service called WebPass which was fiber with radio dishes for the last mile. They eventually gave up on our market, but two other radio fiber ISPs exist$. So Google isn't the necessarily the best competitor in that market.

    $ Due to a wacky series of misunderstandings, both of these ISPs service my building now that Webpass is gone. They periodically send out sales reps who bring snacks and wine.

    • OldHand2018 10 days ago

      There was an existing company called WebPass that Google bought. As far as I can tell, they got rid of all the local sales and support in the dozens of cities they operated in (presumably to fold all that into their existing Google Fiber org). It was a total failure.

      • MiddleEndian 8 days ago

        Aah that is a shame. They're clearly not equipped to handle anything that requires human support.

  • jcims 10 days ago

    I don't know that Google is well positioned to offer this type of service. Operationally their customers are homogenized through the interfaces that their bread-and-butter services offer. This is not possible with a last-mile ISP. There is, relatively speaking, a lot of overhead per-customer and they simply have very little experience operating in that way.

  • nikofeyn 10 days ago

    that is very worrying, but i also wonder how hard google tried. they don't have a very good track record for building and maintaining products outside of their main product space (ads and selling data).

  • tptacek 10 days ago

    The current telecom providers, who compete with each other? If you compare similarly dense areas in the US and Europe, we're doing pretty well on high-speed Internet access. I have multiple gigabit options in Chicago, and only got them in the last couple years. What's not working?

    • kasey_junk 10 days ago

      It’s rare in Chicago to have multiple fiber options and lots of the city has none.

      I don’t necessarily disagree with your point but your experience may be on the rare side.

      • OldHand2018 10 days ago

        You may not have multiple fiber options all over the city, but its really common to have at least 2 high speed options. Chicago doesn't have a cable or telephone monopoly, so you've always had the option of Comcast or RCN and AT&T or Verizon. They all offer internet these days.

        All the railroad right of ways are loaded with fiber, the freight tunnels are loaded with fiber, etc.

        If you are downtown, you can add the half dozen or so fully competent local ISPs. These companies sell internet to condo associations; every unit gets a dedicated connection and the common areas get shared wifi. The cost gets added to the monthly assessment. Where I live it's $25 per month for 500 meg symmetrical.

        I work in a 1920s skyscraper in the Loop. Cogent stops by at least once a year and puts coffee and (expensive) donuts in the lobby. They'll run fiber directly from their backbone to a server rack on whatever floor your office is on.

        • kasey_junk 10 days ago

          I can get gig speed from xfinity. That’s it. When I lived 10 blocks south I had zero options. At that location 16mb dsl was the best choice.

          Railroad right of ways are largely immaterial to last mile home seevice.

  • kortilla 10 days ago

    I have fiber that’s not from google at 1 gig/sec for $85/mo in Austin and had it in Phoenix as well. Is it possible google is just an incompetent ISP?

  • duxup 10 days ago

    Any chance some form of wireless can increase competition?

    • AnthonyMouse 10 days ago

      The "wireless competing with broadband" thing is mostly ISPs trying to claim that the two services compete with each other in order to claim that they have more competitors than they do.

      Wireless is slower, has higher latency, is less reliable (interference/obstructions), etc. But you can put in one tower and service every customer for miles under those conditions, which is much cheaper than wiring every building.

      It's possible to address those problems with wireless, but the way to do it makes the wireless network look like the wired one. Instead of one tower serving many people, you have very many towers each serving a small number of people. But then the cost benefit evaporates. You need a tower on every street corner which has to be wired with fiber.

      At that point you might as well just hook the existing phone or cable wires already going into everyone's houses into that box on the end of the street in order to get the last few meters, and save yourself a few billion dollars in wireless spectrum.

      • subway 10 days ago

        Wireless is slower, has higher latency, is less reliable

        This all varies based on the wireless tech used. My apartment in Seattle is serviced via point to point wireless with another building across the neighborhood. Currently I see under 2ms RTT to google.com, and can max out the 100mbit port on my router both up and down. (Gigabit is available, but requires an account with WaveG. 100mbit is free with my rent, and on the landlord's account).

        Aside from a misconfiguration on my building's switch that allowed a neighbor to act as a rogue dhcp server, I've yet to see an outage in the two years of living here.

        Wireless doesn't have to suck.

        • AnthonyMouse 10 days ago

          You're describing the thing that requires you to have many towers each serving a small number of users.

          Moreover, the reliability you get has a lot to do with what happens in your neighborhood. Point to point wireless is great until somebody builds a new building in the path between you and the other wireless device.

      • rayiner 10 days ago

        > But then the cost benefit evaporates. You need a tower on every street corner which has to be wired with fiber.

        That’s simply not true, and it becomes obvious why when you account for fan-out. There is a reason why independent ISPs often do MDU installs. Running fiber to one point where you can service 100 customers is vastly cheaper than running fiber to 100 houses.

        • AnthonyMouse 10 days ago

          Which is why you reuse the existing wires into the home. Coax or even telephone wire can get quite impressive speeds (faster than gigabit) over short distances, which is all you need to get in from the box on the street corner.

          You would only need to bring fiber into the home for the users that need the full performance of fiber. But then fiber is the only thing with that level of performance. You're not reasonably going to get better performance out of wireless than you can get out of coax.

  • otachack 10 days ago

    The government, if it wasn't being run by puppets.

neom 10 days ago

Grace Simrall the CTO over there is no n00b. They're a customer of ours and they're probably one of the most advanced cities we work with in terms of thinking about a "city stack". Google Fiber didn't abandon them, as far as I can tell they just have better plans that don't include being strong armed by google.

  • duxup 10 days ago

    >that don't include being strong armed by google.

    What does that mean exactly?

    I would think getting more competition would be welcome.

    • peteradio 10 days ago

      Perhaps their terms were outrageous. That's not the kind of competition you'd want.

sodosopa 10 days ago

How bad were their roads prior to Google? If it's like a lot of other states, roads get little funding for improvements

Louisville should have looked at the model set by Chattanooga's EPB. Fastest internet in the country and a highly rated customer service team. Their roads suck too but it's not the ISP's fault.

shmerl 10 days ago

Very irresponsible behavior. If they have commitments, they should have stuck to them. The way they behaved with Google Fiber is atrocious. Networks can't be built without long term investments and Google knew well about that when they started.

  • 908087 10 days ago

    The "Google never actually meant to be an ISP, they just wanted to kickstart competition" spin I hear pushed on this reminds me of the "they were just trying to start the conversation" spin when people get caught faking racist/sexist/homophobic attacks on themselves.

lizknope 10 days ago

I live in the Raleigh-Durham, NC area and we heard Google Fiber was coming to the area around 2015.

A couple of months later Time Warner upgraded my cable modem speed from 15Mb to 50Mb download for the same monthly price.

Then 2 years ago AT&T came through my neighborhood installing fiber and turned it on 3 months later.

Google Fiber is concentrated in a few small areas. AT&T Fiber is expanding all over the area. I know 1 person with Google Fiber and about 15 with AT&T Fiber.

I would prefer Google over AT&T but the AT&T Fiber works and is reliable and Google is so slow at expanding that nobody cares anymore.

ggm 10 days ago

Long time ago, the campus I worked at was offered "the deal of the century" from Dec to buy FDDI cards for all campus. A really sweet deal, only $5000 per host..

The moral of the story: beware geeks bearing gifts. Google should have been put into a contract to only field-test shallow trenches, if they committed to remediation into deep trenches at their own buck.

"they would have gone somewhere else" is the voice of Amazon city bidding nonsense: this is public utility infrastructure. They ballsed it up, they should have been contractually obligated to get it right.

If it was a testbed freebie, different story. You let somebody in to test something for free? Sure. Public Liability? sure. Disappointed customers? Sure.

Hang on.. who are they disappointed in? the elected Lousville Officials?

endofcapital 10 days ago

"But Google Fiber got something out of its time here. It learned that nanotrenching—the cost-saving process of burying fiber optic cables just two inches underground—was a bust. “We currently do not have plans that call for 2 inch trenches, our primary specifications are focused on going deeper,” a Google Fiber spokesperson said in an email."

It's so weird to just use cities as A/B tests and just disregard all the people and plans built around a failed case at the drop of a hat. Are they going to start A/B testing countries against eachother next?

  • paxys 10 days ago

    Trying new products in small markets as an experiment has been a thing forever, and is something literally every company does regularly. There is nothing weird about it. As for the fallout, IMO the city is to blame for it more than Google, since the company is obligated to do exactly what the contract entails.

    • tzs 10 days ago

      Yeah, but when a soda company, say, tries out one new flavor in my town, and different new flavor in your town, and mine flops and yours succeeds, they don't just stop selling soda in my town. They start selling the flavor from your test in my town, too.

      It would have risked much less bad publicity if they had done the 2" experiments in a city they were willing to use 6" trenching in. Do part of the deployment with 2" and part with 6", and if the 2" part doesn't work redo that part with 6".

      • 908087 10 days ago

        Soda companies also don't leave deteriorating trenches behind on the roads in town when their tests fail.

    • op00to 10 days ago

      I think what's different is typically cable/phone companies have been reluctant to give up on their investment so easily. This is probably somehow due to the past and present monopolies they hold. Google, like the honey badger, don't care.

  • AaronFriel 10 days ago

    Isn't that what cities, states, and countries are in an abstract sense? They are randomized trials of different systems of law and government, and so on.

    It's much messier when it's accidental, but ... wouldn't it be smart for say, new state propositions in California to be tested in a trial to verify they produce the consequence voters asked for?

  • pathseeker 10 days ago

    Google does this all of the time with all of their products. The purposely degraded the performance of some users on their products (search IIRC) to see how they would react.

    • kalleboo 10 days ago

      YouTube too, can't find it now but they did a study where they degraded users to 480p to see how many would manually switch back to HD (spoiler: very few did)

      I believe YouTube also experimentally surfaces new recommendations slowly to see how many clicks they get and if it should be surfaced more or not

greedo 10 days ago

My city negotiated a fiber contract with Allo that was very favorable to the city. Allo basically provides free internet to municipal buildings for the right to sell fiber to residential areas. The entire city is almost covered (300K people), and rates are very affordable ($90/month for 1gig symmetrical). Allo also sells tv and phone service as well. I've been extremely happy. Allo provided the CPE at no cost, doesn't require a contract, and has support people who seem to be close to the metal.

  • dwighttk 10 days ago

    I thought Google just canceled Allo the other day...

    • greedo 4 days ago

      Different Allo. www.allocommunications.com

rdiddly 10 days ago

Anybody else notice the symmetry of how Google's competition is described as "entrenched" and how Google's fiber lines were literally, insufficiently entrenched?

Criper1Tookus 10 days ago

I really don’t think Google knows what they really want to achieve with Fiber - otherwise they’d have figured out the right way to roll it out years ago. They also bought a separate company, Webpass, that does “fixed wireless” (wireless to the building using a pretty big antenna, about the size of a stadium light, building is wired from there), and that has also been rolling out very slowly.

paul7986 10 days ago

Google is a terrible company!

xparco 10 days ago

Google owes them nothing. These people are so entitled. They need to be sent off for war.

rcchyssser 10 days ago

It's Kentucky, it always looks like that.

spullara 10 days ago

Fiber is probably a dead end and will ultimately be replaced by 5G point-to-point transmission for the last mile.

  • Someone1234 10 days ago

    Fiber offers better reliability, lower latency, higher bandwidth (right now), and it can be reused for even higher bandwidth later (e.g. 1 Gbps fiber can handle 10 Gbps with new transceivers on the same run).

    • eeeeeeeeeeeee 10 days ago

      They could still do fiber to some central node, then point-to-point radios for the last mile. I have WebPass (webpass.net) and it's point-to-point, gigabit, and latency is awesome, much better than Comcast ever was for me at the same location, or any location for that matter. My ping to 1.1.1.1 is consistently around 2-4ms. And yes, this is obviously an anycast address, going to a datacenter in my city, but still impressive:

        traceroute to 1.1.1.1 (1.1.1.1), 30 hops max, 60 byte packets
       1  192.168.1.1 (192.168.1.1)  0.394 ms  0.383 ms  0.470 ms
       2  * * * (*)  2.460 ms  1.754 ms  2.599 ms
       3  10.5.1.9 (10.5.1.9)  1.518 ms  1.424 ms  1.614 ms
       4  206.51.46.41 (206.51.46.41)  1.926 ms  2.240 ms  2.138 ms
       5  one.one.one.one (1.1.1.1)  1.756 ms  1.945 ms  2.015 ms
      
      I was skeptical of this over something wired, too, but it's clear that the technology has greatly improved.
      • phonon 10 days ago

        And in bad weather...?

        • eeeeeeeeeeeee 10 days ago

          No issues whatsoever. That was definitely my concern. Snow, fog, rain, large storms. It just works.

  • kalleboo 10 days ago

    I agree that fiber rollout will probably slow to a halt in favor of wireless, but purely for cost reasons. Fiber will always be superior if you can get it, but most users don't care enough - like how people complain about bad service and small economy class seats but won't pay 10% more for another airline with better seat pitch.

    I know lots of people now who use wireless plans at home - they whine at the end of the month when their cap runs out but won't switch because it's cheaper (monthly cost similar, but free signup vs $200 install fee + router purchase).

    So 100% yes, as a business it makes little economic sense to build a consumer FTTH network. I'd still like to see governments and incumbent telecoms do it though as an investment in quality, stability and diversity. I feel a lot more comfortable replacing the POTS network with fiber than wireless.

  • spullara 10 days ago

    Downvote all you want but this is why Verizon stopped rolling fiber out and why Google Fiber fails in most places. It doesn't make financial sense to hard wire every house with fiber when you can get higher speeds (20 Gps) over the air with the next generation of wireless technology. It will be cheaper to deploy and will have far broader reach.

    • fourthark 10 days ago

      It has not been proven that you can get those speeds consistently. You typically need line of sight, no trees, even no rain for the really small bandwidths.

      • mike00632 10 days ago

        Literally, even walls can break the 5G connection. Hope you don't live in a home that has any of those.

        • spullara 9 days ago

          This is for outside point-to-point, not for receiving indoors. Serves the same purpose as last-mile fiber, not wifi. The 5G lands service at the location and you use wifi inside to access it. Just like you would with fiber/cable/dsl.

          • fourthark 9 days ago

            Sounds only a little bit cheaper and a lot less reliable than fiber. We'll see!

  • tibu 10 days ago

    I live in a small village in Hungary. I have fiber because of a Eastern-European provider called Digi. They are cheap and reliable. But I don't really thing well have 5G here in short time. I suppose huge cities will be covered first and based on the tech requirements and number of base stations it will take years. In the meantime I can have 1Gb speed which is more than enough for me for everything.

    • spullara 10 days ago

      Fiber is easy in big cities. The point-to-point 5G stuff will be to get high-bandwidth to harder to reach places. You're lucky that you can get that, no "small village" in the US will get fiber.

  • JustSomeNobody 10 days ago

    I really can't see this happening. I really don't want to see this happen. Wired is robust. I can spit and wireless takes a dive.

  • ecshafer 10 days ago

    I think we will see 5g last mile, but fiber will still be the backbone. It won't go all wireless.