Google Fiber was once greeted by Louisville residents with effusive thanks, parades and renamed streets (as well as the occasional pet, or at least that's what I heard). Now, though, Google Fiber customers await the official April 15 shutoff date with mixed emotions. (See Google in 'The Case of the Minimal Microtrenching'.)
Residents were proud Google Fiber selected their municipality as one of the few targeted for what sounded like an amazing service. The beautiful Kentucky city, a mix of bourbon fortunes, equestrian empires and new tech capital, was a laboratory for Google Fiber. The provider blended proven deployment techniques like microtrenching -- where a cable is laid between six- and 12 inches deep -- and nanotrenching -- where cable lies only two inches below the surface, covered only by a rubbery seal instead of something more concrete.
(By the way, Louisville gets an average of almost 45 inches of rain every year. Seattle? It averages 37.5 inches a year. This is a big deal if you're not really completely burying fiber.)
Certain residents weren't happy with Google's deployments from day one. Some of the Belknap area installations were pristine, with fiber optic cables buried six-inches or more, but others appeared to have been taken over by a couple of bratty teens with their parents' shovels, pickaxes, very little strength and even less patience. How else to explain wires pushing out of the dirt and the disappearance of the rubber patching?
Google Fiber: Not Live, but Unplugged
By pulling permits, local business reporter Christopher Otts determined Google Fiber was mainly in the Highlands area of Louisville, Kentucky. (Source: Christopher Otts/Twitter/WDRB)
"When you're walking around the neighborhood, (the lines are) popping up out of the road all over the place," said Larry Coomes, a Belknap resident told WDRB in March 2018. "People are tripping over it. We had a neighbor who tripped over some of this rubber coming out of the road. You see cable coming up all over the place."
Given the expense, rebuilding the entire network in Louisville, is "just not the right business decision," wrote Google Fiber in a blog today.
It is the only way, however, to fix the problems Google Fiber created -- that old penny wise, pound foolish adage my Grandma was fond of saying, I suppose. Louisville did not simply take this glorious high-speed broadband from Google Fiber without giving anything in return. Other than being the experimental network for trenching techniques, the city also was blessed to be a civil law test case when AT&T sued Louisville after the city passed a one-pole law to simplify access for multiple providers.
"Louisville for many years basically begged @googlefiber to come, then passed the utility pole ordinance Google Fiber wanted, then spent $382,328 on contract lawyers to defend that ordinance in lawsuits from @ATT & @GetSpectrum, then permitted Google to cut seams in the streets...," tweeted Christopher Otts, business reporter with local news station WDRB.com.
Louisville got learnt. Google Fiber got an education at Louisville's expense.
"The lessons we’ve learned in Louisville have already made us better in our other Google Fiber cities. We’ve refined our microtrenching methods and are seeing good outcomes elsewhere," the unattributed blog continued. That must be a great comfort to the good folks of Belknap development, who at least get about two months of free Google Fiber (if it's working, of course). Having been the rats in the lab, others benefit from their unconnected pain and ugly streets. That's nice.
It's not all bad, of course. Google Fiber's presence attracted a host of other providers to Louisville, just as it has in other cities. When it leaves, there's little doubt ex-subscribers won't need Google Search to find alternatives; competitors will vie for their business with attractively priced offers, bundles featuring everything from pay-TV to streaming to voice to gigabit to landscaping crews and mowing services for six months.
Oh, and lastly: That puppy called Google Fiber? He's now named Spectrum after his family heard about the cable operator's mobile plan. The pup shouldn't get too attached to his moniker though, as Verizon is teeing up an offer specifically targeted at this family. Poor dog.
— Alison Diana, Editor, Broadband World News. Follow us on Twitter or @alisoncdiana.