Garbage in garbage out: Google Fiber edition

After lackluster fiber registrations in certain Kansas City neighborhoods, Google has adjusted down the number of homes in certain neighborhoods eligible for the service. The search giant says it is lowering the number of homes in 73 of its designated “fiberhoods,” because it had orginally collected bad data, but others wonder if this is an effort to goose signups so it looks like a greater percentage of homes are signing up for Google’s pioneering gigabit broadband service.

In a blog post Friday, Google’s Kevin Lo wrote:

Our build-by-demand model is unique. It will keep our prices low by using efficient networking and construction processes. And, in order to make it work, we need accurate data to define the number of residential addresses in each fiberhood. Since we were hearing some concerns about pre-registration goals, we sent our street teams back out into Kansas City, Kan. and Kansas City, Mo. to figure out what changes we needed to make.

Lo explains that vacant lots, abandoned homes and miscounted apartments all contributed to the problem of over representing the number of homes in some areas. While this is likely true, it’s somewhat amazing that a company that is sending a specially designed tricycle to bring its StreetView product to the Arctic Circle can’t gather accurate data tied to what analysts estimate is a $500 million investment.

If it is the case that Google is having to play some sort of game with the number of homes in order to get the appearance of more signups it’s only a PR victory — its economic model for deploying fiber to large numbers of homes at one time is one of the things helping it keep its costs down.

But maybe a PR victory is all Google needs. After all, if people in areas that are close to hitting that magic we-get-fiber point feel like their pre-registration could tip things over the edge, maybe they’d be more likely to shell out the $10 to pre-register and sign up. Regardless, Google already has signed up a significant number of fiberhoods so far, and has until Sept. 9 to entice even more residents to get a gigabit.