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

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”