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I wonder, was Google Fibre ever intended to succeed in the traditional sense?

Instead, perhaps it was an attempt by Google to change the industry by 1) scaring the incumbents into improving, and 2) expanding consumers' Overton windows[1] regarding what they could/should expect.

Google presumably wants to ensure its services can be delivered to consumers, so this would seem towards that end. As another commenter notes, Google also has deep pockets. Creating & operating a whole company as a PR 'stunt' doesn't seem beyond the realms of reasonable probability.

PS: I think a similar argument can be made for Tesla. I don't think it is a given that Musk intends for Tesla's success to be an economic one.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overton_window

Edit: made last sentence less strong.




I worked for Fiber for two years. It was both (wanting to succeed as a business and wanting to shift the industry), with a primary focus on succeeding as a business, or at least that was what the internal messaging was.

I won't comment on any possible changes in the last couple years or why they may have happened, except to say that to the best of my knowledge, at no point was the sentiment, "We've shifted the industry enough that we can stop pretending to want to succeed."


Google Fiber hit a lot of roadblocks along the way that slowed things down. You have the lawsuit from AT&T against local government in Louisville[0]. There was also a lot of arguments[1][2] around the country for Google trying to access utility poles to hang their wires.

Incumbents tried their hardest to prevent Google from hanging new wires. Many of the laws in-place today make it difficult for new companies to hang wires, which I believe was a reaction from the telegraph days[3].

[0] https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2017/11/att-admits-defea...

[1] https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/12/why-att-says-it-...

[2] https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2015/01/cable...

[3] https://io9.gizmodo.com/photos-from-the-days-when-thousands-...


Your analysis is backwards. There aren't special laws that "make it difficult for new companies to hang wires." The issue was not Google hanging its own wires, but Google contractors moving AT&T's wires in order to make space on the poles. Louisville passed special laws to enable one company to relocate another company's property on utility poles. I think those laws are a good idea, but its hard to blame AT&T for not wanting Google contractors to touch its infrastructure.

Also, pointing to a couple of lawsuits ignores the fact that Google got huge concessions everywhere else. It got waivers from build-out requirements (obligations to cover whole cities, instead of "fiberhoods" with sufficient demand), fast-track permitting, free use of municipal land for fiber huts, etc: https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2012/09/how-kansas-city-....

I think Google rightfully gets the benefit of goodwill that say AT&T does not. But it's a real triumph of narrative over facts to suggest that Google Fiber didn't have the red carpet rolled out for it in nearly every Fiber city.

(Incidentally, a team of four guys with heavy equipment have spent the last three hours trenching fiber 50 feet through my tiny yard. That's the second visit, and there will be one more, and that's not counting running the fiber down the main road which required months of permitting and surveying. I strongly suspect that's why Google pulled out of Fiber.)


> but its hard to blame AT&T for not wanting Google contractors to touch its infrastructure

Exactly -- AT&T thinks it's their infrastructure, but it's not. It's ours.


"We" (the government) didn't build it or pay for it. Even back in the AT&T monopoly era it was always private infrastructure.[1] AT&T got certain rights (e.g. easements) but that also came with a lot of strings attached (they had to build in a bunch of rural places they never would've built otherwise). Public ownership of the wires was never part of the bargain.

[1] The same is true for power lines. They're mostly privately owned. The power utilities are subject to various regulations (rate regulation, etc.) but the wires were built with private money and are private property. In contrast, most water/sewer lines are owned by the municipality, and paid for by the public through taxes and hook-up fees for new construction.


> We" (the government) didn't build it or pay for it.

This is not and has not ever been true.

Here [1] is an open auction with ~$2 billion in federal aid attached - "a total of $1.98 billion for 10 years." This was last updated just over a week ago. I would dig further back for other subsidies, but it is not necessary. Through tax breaks and subsidies we (the government, tax payers, etc) have certainly aided infrastructure build out for telecom cos.

[1] https://www.fcc.gov/caf2-auction


The Connect America Fund is funded through a special tax on telcos: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_Service_Fund#Connect.... It's likes taxing cell phone companies to provide free phones for low-income people. Yes, some cell phone companies will end up getting "subsidies" but companies like AT&T (or Apple) would be net payors. And whether or not you call that a "subsidy" in rural areas, everywhere outside of rural areas it's the opposite of "subsidized." The taxes that pay for CAF make service in urban areas more expensive, thus decreasing demand and revenue. Municipalities also treat telecom service as a revenue source (a tax of 5% of gross revenue is typical). And there's all the extra obligations, like build-out requirements.

There was some tax dollar funded subsidies in the ARRA, but it's a vanishingly small fraction of the trillion+ dollars invested in telecom infrastructure in the last few decades.


> The Connect America Fund is funded through a special tax on telcos

Is this one of the taxes that they just throw straight onto my monthly bill?


One, companies can’t just pass on taxes like that. If they add a surcharge, that increases the price of the product, which reduces demand. You can’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps: you can’t increase your revenue by having the government add a tax to your product and kick it back to you, maybe unless you sell heroin or something. (But then you could just raise the price without the pretense and people would pay it.)

Two, AT&T is paying the tax, but the government is mostly kicking the subsidies back to small rural telcos and coops. Telcos with more urban footprints, like AT&T, subsidize telcos in high cost rural areas.

So calling CAF a subsidy to AT&T really makes no sense. It’s like saying Apple would love the government to slap a 5% tax on iPhones and kick the money to providers of low cost phones. Even if Apple could increase prices to compensate, and get some of those subsidies for the iPhone SE, it’d still be worse off than without the “subsidy.”


Oh please. Incumbents love USF, just like they love all other goofy surcharges. That's whey they invented them in the first place. Sure, their customers pay more than those of their competitors, but through their complete domination of PUCs and FCC they get to decide exactly how the programs are administered. As if they actually needed more barriers to entry for any potential competition, the rules of these programs are continually adjusted to fit exactly what incumbents are doing anyway, while imposing ruinous costs on competitors.


Pure fantasy. AT&T got $1.3 billion from the USF in 2007-10. https://www.fiercetelecom.com/telecom/at-t-verizon-are-rolli.... About $450 million per year.

The FCC doesn’t disclose USF contributions by company, but you can guess: https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-303886A3.p.... Total reported telecom revenue is about $300 billion per year during that period. AT&T averaged $120 billion per year in revenue during that period (about 40% of the industry). (This is probably an overestimate because AT&T’s revenue includes non-telecom revenue.)

During that period, USF revenues were $7-8 billion per year. 40% of that is like $3 billion. Even if I’m wrong about AT&T’s revenue share by a factor of 4 AT&T still pays in much more than it gets out.


I would wonder if the subsidies and tax breaks that have been given over to these companies by the government over the years would count towards the idea us having paid for it. There's always that scandal from decades ago that comes up from time-to-time.


Companies were not given subsidies or tax breaks to pay for telephone or power lines. They were allowed to have local monopolies, in exchange for the requirement they provide utility services to all customers in the area, without regard to the cost of building out service to those customers.


The government can't just go and deem something it's property after the fact, even if "we paid for it".


It can be "ours" without being government property.



It would also then, have to pay AT&T for it. ...Again. Because AT&T presently owns their property, and regardless of any handouts they've been given, they'd need to be compensated for it's fair market value in order for the government to relieve them of it.

Also, it's likely eminent domain attempts for Google's benefit would run afoul of the law. I don't think the government can eminent domain something for the benefit of another corporation.


Actually it can. The government is the only thing that enforces the notion of property in the first place


The government has precedent to intervene to make sure new competition is allowed in the market. IANAL but I think they should be exercising this right here, otherwise the incentives are for AT&T to move their wires over for a competitor approximately never.


The real question is, who has to fix it when the Google contractors screw something up?


"(Incidentally, a team of four guys with heavy equipment have spent the last three hours trenching fiber 50 feet through my tiny yard. That's the second visit, and there will be one more, and that's not counting running the fiber down the main road which required months of permitting and surveying...)"

Do you live northwest of Austin, where 18 inches below the surface there is about two feet of solid limestone?


Rocky outcropping. I thought it was going to be a surgical incision, not a ditch. I think they partly went under my neighbor's yard--but they put all the dirt and dead leaves back over so hopefully he doesn't notice!


Not even 18 inches in some places - more like 5 inches. You can get through it with heavy equipment - something like this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7720jUW_aIk


Wouldn't really want to listen to that any more than the jackhammer.


Sounds like a mission for the Boring Company.


While I absolutely agree with you, that setup would have been untenable. I had an ATT line hanging about 6 feet off the ground(in Louisville, pole neighborhood). Took ATT multiple calls and visits, a total process of about a month, to adjust that one line on one pole. Now imagine a citywide rollout.


Is that because of legitimate difficulty in the work being done, or because ATT is completely bureaucratically incompetent?

I'm all for having a set of processes and procedures in place, especially for an entity as large as ATT, but even by the standards of telecos their internal workings are a Franz Kafka nightmare.


the latter. I had trouble even reaching them because I'm not an ATT customer. I tried emailing random contacts I could find, to no avail. Finally they sent a guy out, who was an installer but couldn't touch the pole. Said a different team handled that. About 2 weeks later, they took care of it at last. Not hard work - it was literally rebinding a 20 ft section of wire to the taught steel wire that already existed, which they appear to do with heavy wire ties.


I think the FCC should impose a nationwide “one touch make ready” regulation. Federal law already requires non discriminatory access to utility pole, and the FCC already has limits on how long utility line owners can take to do pole adjustments. The FCC has been considering taking that further.


That would be a massive grab of both state and private rights, mostly for the sake of a single company that has asked for it, which is already a monopoly in several other markets and does not need special government favors to help it achieve more.


> a team of four guys with heavy equipment have spent the last three hours trenching fiber 50 feet through my tiny yard. That's the second visit, and there will be one more, and that's not counting running the fiber down the main road which required months of permitting and surveying. I strongly suspect that's why Google pulled out of Fiber.

I wouldn't be surprised if this was a huge factor. Everyone likes to blame regulation for fibre failures, but the "last mile" of fiber to the premise, like many wired broadband technologies before it, is often a nightmare.

Reminds me of this story, where one Norwegian ISP started asking customers to dig their own trench: https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2009/05/norwegian-isp-di...


> Google Fiber hit a lot of ^ roadblocks

^ entirely predictable


GF suffers the same fate of every other Google initiative: new exec decides it can't advance his career so it's starved to death in favor of something shinier.

Google won't save us any more than Musk will. It's billionaires launching cars into space and fighting for personal wealth at the detriment of the rest of the society.


> billionaires launching cars into space

Can you help me understand the ire over that launch?

It's standard that new rockets are tested with a dummy payload to avoid destroying something valuable. Typically that's steel plates, but the Falcon Heavy was going to go up with a useless payload regardless. Saturn I-IV did the same, and V only had a payload because it was a module test and a launch test rolled into one.

I suppose the Tesla took up some extra man-hours fitting the car for launch, and the rocket wasn't aimed somewhere it would be destroyed (though I can't tell whether they usually are).

But seeing this spun as "SpaceX won't save us, they're just shooting cars into space!" is baffling to me; it was some personal wealth spent on adding spectacle to a totally normal rocket launch.


Most likely due to the same troll farms that paint the narrative that SpaceX wastes tax payer money.

Now who would not want a new private American company to succeed in revitalizing the industry and increasing competition. Hmm, I can think of a few.

It used to be "NASA is a bloated waste of tax payer money let private Enterprise in."

And now the same people who said that, have been convinced that private industry is stealing.


> the same people who said that

This part doesn't match my experience?

"NASA is a waste" is, broadly, a conservative/Republican stance. Almost everyone I've seen outraged about the Tesla launch was noticeably left of the average Democrat. I don't think a narrative of "they hated the public version, now they hate the private version" holds up for the people I've seen.

Granted, there's a second group on the left who hated NASA before and SpaceX now. But that narrative is usually "space exploration is a waste when people are going hungry", with not much concern about public/private status.


"NASA is a waste" is, broadly, a conservative/Republican stance..."space exploration is a waste when people are going hungry"

It's definitely now also a Far Left talking point. Larry Wilmore basically went back to the old 60's, "Why is there poverty, and we're putting men on the moon?" There's a scene somewhere where he's telling Bill Nye to STFU about his Science. This brings to mind Phillip DeFranco's t-shirt about substituting feelings for facts.


> It's billionaires launching cars into space and fighting for personal wealth at the detriment of the rest of the society.

I would entertain an argument that Google Fiber hasn't actually helped society very much but I have a hard time buying that it's been harmful... At worst, it's driven the other players in the regions it's in to offer more bandwidth for less money. At best, it headed off rising a trend of ISPs deceiving the public about what was possible in an effort to suppress speeds and tightly meter bandwidth...


> It's billionaires launching cars into space and fighting for personal wealth at the detriment of the rest of the society.

What?


"launching cars into space" is a reference to the recent launch of a Tesla into space.

https://www.theverge.com/2018/2/6/16983744/spacex-tesla-falc...


I know that, but to the detriment of society?


Sometimes it feels like some folks will only be happy when life is completely hive-like, when there is nothing to differentiate anything from anything else, everything is grey, nothing is whimsical, and nobody can put their mark on the world.


I don't completely agree with this argument, but...

All of that money came from somewhere. Do you wonder why most of your local retailers went out of business, and you can't visit a local bookstore or camera shop anymore? It's related to why Jeff Bezos has so much money that he has nothing better to do than shoot stuff into space. Preferably, he will shoot bigger stuff farther than Elon Musk, Richard Branson, or Paul Allen.

It could also be used somewhere else. Is shooting suicidal volunteers at Mars really the best use of billions of dollars?


"the best use" is a horrible standard that leads to shaming 99.99% of charities for not being literal perfection.

Solving difficult engineering problems is usually good for the world.


If anything, shooting cars into space makes them spend money they have on people that dont have money and build the car.

Adam Smith directly says vanity is what took down feudalism. We surely dont want our billionaires to not even spend the money they have!


Please see "I don't completely agree with this argument..."

Printing money and setting it on fire would employ printers and firefighters. I'm not sure Billionaire Space Wars are a net harm to society, but they're pretty silly.


This is incorrect. Access is an Alphabet subsidiary separate from Google and its CEO reports to the Alphabet executive team. The people working on it are incentivized for it to succeed, and the next person up is Larry Page.


I believe you mean that the next person up is Ruth Porat. /s


Actually, you prompted me to check, and Dinni isn't listed as having a manager, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. But I certainly wouldn't deny Ruth's ability to influence Access's direction. :)


GF suffers the same fate of every other Google initiative: new exec decides it can't advance his career so it's starved to death in favor of something shinier.

Apparently, "Don't be Evil" doesn't cover internal company politics.

I remember at a previous job, there was this hefty trans-atlantic data link the company was leasing. All the VPs coveted it, so the political machinations basically resulted in no-one using it, ever, all the while we were paying not-insignificant funds for it.


> It's billionaires launching cars into space and fighting for personal wealth at the detriment of the rest of the society

You conveniently ignored Musk almost went bankrupt after 3 failures initially at space x.


This would be an insightful comment if it provided evidence rather than conjecture. As it stands, it contributes nothing to my understanding of Google Fiber.


> ... at no point was the sentiment, "We've shifted the industry enough that we can stop pretending to want to succeed."

I don't doubt you, but I would definitely expect that sort of messaging even if the true primary goal for GF was to be disruptive, as opposed to profitable.


Right, it's possible the executives weren't straightforward with us simple SWEs. But I don't have any particular reason/evidence for believing that in this case. My general priors for such things are somewhere between 0 and 1, exclusive. :)

FWIW, if I were aware of other plausible explanations for the way Fiber has progressed, Occam's Razor would compel me to believe those explanations versus defaulting to cynicism.


You could say that Google Fiber was a response to Comcast's announcement of its intent to acquire NBC in December 2009.

Google makes no money if they can't show ads to people, and at the time Comcast and friends controlled Google's access to a majority of US audiences that Google's customers (advertisers) wanted their ads in front of. Advertising in the US was more than half of Google's revenue then. Comcast had the only network nationally capable of reliably delivering video and video ads, which was prioritized for growth within Google around then.

I think there was a real fear within Google about the leverage Comcast and other national ISP's had over them. TLS wasn't common, and advertisers weren't nearly as interested in mobile audiences in 2010: wireless data use was a fraction of what it is now. A well-capitalized Comcast without the regulatory restrictions of AT&T or Verizon could create existential trouble for Google if they really wanted to. Google Fiber could have been Google's way of showing they'd be willing to play hardball if it came to that. Any positive PR that came from it was a great bonus, but they almost certainly never made money from Google Fiber.


> Google makes no money if they can't show ads to people

I'm really, really hoping that changes drastically in the next decade. It would be really nice if Google started making the majority of their money from compute cloud offerings (a little out there, but that sector is growing much faster than their general business). I think it's essential if Google's ever going to gain some independence from the perverse incentives they've set themselves up for, and I think that's essential for Google (and society in general) as we move forward.

I'm not sure what to do with Facebook. I don't see people paying for that. Then again, with the amount of time people spend glued to Facebook, they could probably make a tidy business offloading general computing tasks to their users through JS. The concept has been brought up before, generally in the discussion of blockchain mining through websites, but at Facebook's scale and usage it's an entirely different story. I imagine Facebook could have the largest weather supercomputer in the world (by many factors) next week if they really wanted to.

I wonder if Facebook has a department whose job it is to look into developing more parallelizable algorithms for common workloads...


Fundamentally, both Google and Facebook live by questionable morals: Google is a surveillance company trying to branch out, while Facebook is a surveillance and behavioral manipulation company doubling down. Google has some smart engineers, who could maybe make a viable version of the 60s mainframe business when the ad bubble pops. Facebook... I'd pay a couple bucks a month to keep up with acquaintances in a way that's easier than an email list or private Usenet group. But I see them taking the dark path and e.g. selling "consumer profiles" that aren't "credit reports," because "credit reports" are governed by laws.


Personal CRM.


> PS: I think a similar argument can be made for Tesla. I don't think it is a given that Musk intends for Tesla's success to be an economic one.

I think it is though, but probably not in the automotive industry; ATM it still has a lead, just like Apple had for a while on the smartphone market, but I think it'll be passed left and right by the competition.

But by then, Tesla won't be (primarily) a car company anymore, but a battery company, a solar power company (= energy company), and a company with the largest recharge station network in the country. Selling energy and charge stations will be the next generation's oil industry, and Tesla's taking charge there.


People always say Tesla is a battery company, but as far as I know their batteries are made by Panasonic and while I'm sure they're doing research on their own batteries, I don't know why you'd expect them to be more successful than a company that already makes batteries and employs researchers to improve them.


I thought changing this was the whole point of the gigafactories.


Sure, but why would you assume Tesla is going to be better at making batteries than the companies that have done it for years?


I'm not assuming that.


Sorry, I meant a hypothetical "you". Should have written "why would one assume" instead.


Instead, perhaps it was an attempt by Google to change the industry

I’ve been a happy Verizon FIOS customer for 12 years. For $140 per month I have TV with every pay channel, landline phone and gigabit Internet. The gigabit is relatively recent but I get full gigabit speeds for up and down and it is amazing. I think you’re right that I don’t believe Verizon would’ve offered this at this price without the threat of Google and other competitors.


Fwiw, $140 is quite a lot. We shared what everyone was paying for Fios here at work. I'm on the upper end of $65 for 50/50 (no TV). The lowest we found was 1G for $40.

the trick seems to be to cancel and sign up again for the new user deals.


He also mentioned that he gets a TV package.

I believe gigabit is $70 a month stand alone from Verizon.


As I mentioned, the lowest we found here at work was 1Gig for $40.


I'm paying that to Comcast for 25mbit. No competition here.


The $140 includes the $49 “Ultimate Entertainment Pack”. It’s literally every single pay channel. Without that I paid $91 per month for gigabit Internet, TV with Prime channels and Phone.


As I mentioned, the lowest we found here at work was 1Gig for $40.


Spectrum just jacked up the cost of a similar package to $175 in my region.


spectrum, specifically the 2.4ghz band, where google was looking for wireless alternatives is unlicensed no ?


He was most likely referring to the proper noun "Spectrum", rather than the common noun "spectrum". It's a cable tv/internet company owned by Charter.


FKA Time Warner Cable


FWIW Charter was transitioning to the name Spectrum before the purchase of TWC.


Google might have made the $70 price point happen. But I’m not sure I’d overstate it. AT&T and Verizon are deploying gigabit in places where Google will never go. Verizon's gigabit upgrade happened after Google had already paused Fiber expansion. Comcast started offering $150/month multi-gig in my town long after that too.

I strongly suspect 5G is instead causing renewed interest in fiber deployment. Comcast wants to get in on a cellular/wifi hybrid service, and for that it needs backhaul.


Verizon plays shenanigans with it's prices though [0]. Initial pricing that skyrockets after 12 months, for example, and other hidden costs.

[0] https://www.theverge.com/2017/4/25/15423998/verizon-70-gigab...


Comcast had data caps on their broadband packages in Nashville until Google Fiber showed up. GF has shown very little expansion here, but the other guys definitely felt it.


Rather like Valve's "Steam Machine", it's a means for keeping options open?


> I don't think it is a given that Musk ever intended for Tesla's success to be an economic one.

What did Musk tell investors?


I have observed a wide range of attitudes towards deception. Both deception of one's self, and of others.

For example: For some people being 'a liar' is one of the worst things imaginable, but to others it is perfectly fine. The former judge the latter as being immoral monsters, the latter think the former are rather sweet (and are perhaps also glad the former exist?).

Regarding deception of one's self: some people feel there is an absolute truth that can be known, whereas others may choose their reality and belief systems to fit their needs in any given moment.

I'm describing opposite ends of two spectrums here, rather than categories.

I think people make assumptions about where Musk is on those spectrums.


I'm not sure that telling the SEC that there is no absolute truth in the universe is going to fly.


You're right, I think I was just getting a bit carried away on my soap box.


GP is rather sweet, amirite?


Excuse my pedantry, but you're describing opposite ends of a spectrum.


They described four ends...


True, sorry. I misunderstood it on the first read.

New nit: two spectra.


My sense, from the press and from personal acquaintances, is that a lot of early investors, and at least some later investors, were impact investors[1]. DBL Investors is a notable example of an early Tesla impact investor. The successor, DBL Partners, is long on all three Musk companies.[2]

This doesn't mean that Tesla didn't need to be an economic success. It does mean that economic success wasn't the only criterion, or as highly ranked as it is for a non-impact company with non-impact investors.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impact_investing

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DBL_Partners


Good point, but would investors now stand to benefit over all from expediting the development of electric vehicles, solar and space transportation?


People spend good money on cars, electricity, and rocket launches.

I think the last one is a particularly good business because even though the US military has understood that cost reduction is job #1 for the use of space, the conventional cost plus model of developing rockets and then building and launch them can put stuff in orbit but cannot do cost reduction.


I think he started in the company as an investor, and only later took over.


There was so much news about all of the dark fiber that Google was buying up. Every time it popped up in the news, it seemed like people assumed it was for the Google Fiber project.

I wonder if a lot of that ended up being used for GCP datacenter connections?


Comcast still charges too much, but since Google Fiber they stopped sending out techs who barely know more than the troubleshooting checklist they use when you call.


It certainly had that result for me here in Austin. While they slowed/stopped the Google Fiber rollout, I am now able to get fiber from AT&T. And, extremely surprisingly, the customer service has been great.




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