Build it, they might come

Want Fiber? Do more to get it, Google exec tells cities

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Google has a tip for those who want more high-speed internet options: tell your town to get rid of its fax machine, touch up its maps and streamline the permitting process.

“If you make it easy, we will come. If you make it hard, enjoy your Time Warner Cable,” Milo Medin, VP of Access Services at Google Fiber told a Washington D.C. audience on Tuesday.

Medin cited byzantine permission processes (including a fetish for faxes) and an inability to provide accurate information about infrastructure as prime reasons that hurt some cities’ chances to attract new broadband services.

Currently, Google Fiber is available in Austin, Kansas City and Provo, Utah, while the company is in the process of building out its gigabit-to-the home service in the southern cities Charlotte, Atlanta, and Nashville, and in towns in the Raleigh-Durham area.

It’s unclear though if bumbling bureaucracies are all that’s holding back Google, which has talked a big game about its Fiber networks, but has been slow to roll them out.

Medin, who was speaking on a panel about network deployment, added that some markets in the U.S. are simply uneconomic for internet providers to enter, and that local telephone companies are reluctant to grant access to key telephone pole infrastructure.

He also noted that some owners of multi-unit buildings, where economics of scale are easily available, won’t allow entities like Google Fiber access in the first place.

The upshot for the foreseeable future is a patchwork of different broadband speeds across the country as competitors flock to easy-access markets, while leaving many millions of others (including me in Brooklyn) stuck with monopoly service.

According to Cogent CEO Dave Schaeffer, who also spoke on the panel, this situation will require a future wave of policy inducements to produce more broadband offerings.

Google still cagey on FCC net neutrality rules

The panel’s moderator, Ryan Knutson of the Wall Street Journal, tried to pin down Medin on Google’s position on imminent Title II rules, which will reclassify broadband providers as common carriers. But Medin, who ceded his role leading Google Fiber last year, wouldn’t bite.

Medin instead offered platitudes about the virtues of the open internet, without addressing a curious contradiction at the heart of Google’s policy position: the company has been using its trade associations, including Comptel and the Internet Association, to put a big thumb on the scale in favor of Title II rules, yet still won’t support them directly.

Some speculate that Google’s Fiber ambitions are playing a role in this hedge, though others close to the company have dismissed this theory. In late December, Google did tell the FCC in an official filing that, in the event the agency does impose Title II, it should do so in a way that would require incumbents to give access to their utility poles.

Another member of the panel, Michael Weidman, appeared lukewarm about the Title II proposal and warned of agency overreach.

“I can see a two page summary turning into 300 pages of regulation,” said Weidman, CEO of LS Networks, which provides broadband services to towns in the Pacific Northwest.

The panel was part of an event titled the Comptel Competition and Innovation Summit. It was one more piece of a furious burst of political jockeying ahead of the two key FCC votes, set for Thursday, about the Title II rules and on a plan to give cities more freedom to build broadband.

This story was clarified at 4:10pm on Wednesday to note Google Fiber is coming to towns in the Raleigh Durham area, not “Raleigh Durham”

15 Responses to “Want Fiber? Do more to get it, Google exec tells cities”

  1. Chris Conder

    Google should move into the rural areas, do those first, get fibre rings round the cities and the product would simply sell itself. They can afford it, and it’s a great investment for the future.

  2. To Brandon:
    Why isn’t New York a hub anymore? In the late 1980’s it was the planet’s most important Hub…

    For younger people: there was Internet before the http://WWW... Really!

    BITNIC (aka CUNYVM) was the most important hub on the planet (in the ’80s).

  3. Brandon Edwards

    How about New England! All this talk about google fiber over the years and we are stuck with the TWC in the northeast! it sucks! I would think at least New York the hub of everything would have it first but i guess not! Probably already have the infrastructure.I live in Maine so I am sure we will be last to ever see it if at all! lol.

  4. good article. thank you for sharing it. small correction.

    Raleigh-durham is not a city, it’s only an airport. google fiber is coming to the Raleigh-durham area which they define as Raleigh, durham, carrboro, chapel hill, Morrisville, cary, & garner. lots of towns in the Raleigh-durham area are happy to get google fiber, hopefully in a couple of years.

    • mulderc, I feel your pain. Pittsburgh should be under consideration, google’s moved into the ‘burg, built centers, here, and are still expanding (it’s called bakery square). We have a new mayor, that’s privy to businesses, and we have Carnegie Mellon U here. Everythings in place here, except fiber, Why not pittsburgh, google?

      • Joe Schmoe

        Even if it’s not downtown Pittsburgh, there are plenty of affluent areas in the suburbs around the city that have only one broadband/cable provider (Comcast or Armstrong) to choose from. Google would eat their lunch if they provided fiber service to Wexford, Pine, Cranberry, Mars, Upper Saint Clair, Mount Lebanon, and etc. I’m not advocating the service only be available in those areas, but I think they’d be easier to start in and have the highest potential customer base from which to expand from. It would be easier to deal with the community supervisors of those areas than those in the city.

    • Usually it’s because of stupid agreement made that makes it impossible for faster bandwidth companies being able to come into our cities to get us up to speed of other countries. Poor infrastructures.