Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Google Fiber to pay nearly $4M to Louisville in exit deal (wdrb.com)
119 points by OrgNet 7 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 108 comments

I do appreciate Google's bold and visionary dedication to bringing their model of starting up a project, half-assedly supporting it, and subsequently abandoning it when it becomes a little bit hard out of the software world and to the physical world.

My large regional cable provider recently tripled the cost of modem rental to $15/month so I bought my own.

Opened the next bill but instead of seeing a $15 drop it was the same. Thought it was an error but no, they just unilaterally raised prices on a bunch of other services.

What can I do? There's no other option for me.

I get there are Byzantine local and state regulations that make last-mile internet unprofitable or a low-margin, commodity business, which is presumably why Ruth Porat and other bean counters at Google killed this effort. But improving America's internet is a social good that Google could invest its massive profits into; instead leadership would prefer to build repression-enabling tools to compete in China.

Years ago when I thought of Google I thought of their search engine. Then I thought about them in terms of their successful software like Google Maps, Docs, Chrome, etc. Then I started to become more aware of what they were up to and thought of them in terms of their new motto, "Be Evil". Now I mainly think about Google in terms of a company that kills products and initiatives. I can't think of a single other company that has less of an ability to follow through than Google. Their newer motto should be "When the going gets tough, quit."

Microsoft is rapidly approaching "When the going gets tough, quit" territory. Windows Mobile was a vastly superior operating system, but it was dropped because it was only in third place. Android is still catching up to it's feature set. They've just more or less abandoned Cortana, relegating it to Office and an integration for other voice assistants. Edge, which while buggy beat Chrome on power consumption and performance more often than not, has been dropped for a reskin of Chrome.

Which is to say, Microsoft no longer appears to want to compete with anyone in any market where there is a leading competitor that isn't them.

>Windows Mobile was a vastly superior operating system, but it was dropped because it was only in third place

Putting aside the claim that Windows Phone was a superior operating system...Windows Phone PEAKED at 3% of market, that was prior to spending $7 billion on Nokia in a desperate attempt to keep going. They dropped to 0.1% of the market at the beginning of the 2017 when they terminated it. It's ludicrous to suggest they could rebound from that. As for superior OS, they shipped Windows Phone 7 in 2010 without the ability to cut and paste text.


From the manager of Windows Phone, paying and even writing the apps for companies wasn't enough for them to want a Windows Phone app...

>“We have tried VERY HARD to incent app devs. Paid money. wrote apps 4 them.. but volume of users is too low for most companies to invest,”

A new operating system has 0% of the market. Which is to say, I would argue that building for the long haul is almost always preferable to abandoning ship. And now that we are realizing how badly we need a real alternative, it's gone.

I wouldn't say it had fallen to 0.1% of the market on it's own, Microsoft literally just stopped investing in it for years before it was officially killed. There's dozens of unreleased prototypes and for a while Microsoft just didn't provide ANY hardware options. Much like the death of the keyboard slider form factor on Android, the lack of sales came from consumers having no options to buy than not wanting the product.

Your attempt to criticize Windows Mobile by referring to it's state in 2010, not 2019, mostly renders it an irrelevant argument. (Though Microsoft has regularly launched things too little, too late, I would agree.) Windows 10 Mobile is still superior today to the latest release of Android, and receives security updates faster and more regularly. The next version of Android is planning to introduce features Windows Mobile has supported since launch.

MSFT spent $7.2 billion dollars on Nokia in 2014 to try to increase their market share, which failed.

>Much like the death of the keyboard slider form factor on Android, the lack of sales came from consumers having no options to buy than not wanting the product.

I think it is very safe to say that no one wanted a Windows Phone, despite the backing of MSFT and tens of billions of dollars spent.

Microsoft spent that money to stop the bleeding that their last non-corporate OEM (HP being the only other OEM making devices, and those only targeted to big enterprise) was likely to either go bankrupt or switch to Android because of the race to the bottom of cheap Android (and Android knock-off) hardware changing the phone market. Microsoft buying Nokia was a much a symptom of the problem as an attempt to correct it.

The platform didn't fail for lack of fans or for lack of merits, it failed as much because hardware is a tricksy game and Android played that game better and didn't anger the US Telecoms while doing it. (Microsoft had the US Telecoms actively avoiding trying to sell Windows phones, which certainly didn't help.)

The big difference is that Microsoft is abandoning things that barely anyone likes or uses so they go unnoticed when gone.

Google on the other hand abandons things that lots of people like and would love to keep using.

I would argue there were vastly more Windows Mobile users than Google Reader users, more than likely (in some countries, WinMo had a 10% or greater market share for a while), and I would love to keep using my Windows phone, but I'm going to leave it behind when security updates end this December.

Potential reason: while these companies have a virtually unlimited amount of cash, resources such as top-talent and management mindshare are limited.

Microsoft has been there for a while now. In this way I think Google is the new Microsoft.

$3.84mil over 20 months + $150k donation to a local non-profit. Hard to see how this isn't an easy exit for Google.

Glad it isn't my city. Two years of eye sores and random road construction to patch up neighborhood streets sounds like a real pain, to say the least.

Google certainly did some damage, but road construction has become a norm here outside of Google.

Luckily, Google only touched a laughably small area of the city, one which isn't really going to cause a huge headache with road construction.

When I read “exit deal” I tend to think about an agreement being reached to terminate a contract.

This is an incorrect assumption.

This is only Google making the City of Louisville whole for damage to their road infrastructure.

This is a market exit, wherein Google is making Louisville Metro whole for damage done to our roads while rolling out a service to a tiny fraction of the metro only to give up and walk out.

haha Google seems to do this with a ton of projects. Make it half way and give up. They do it so publicly so often there's a whole Wikipedia page for every project they've started and killed.

Just got another one to add to the list.

They're just trying to find something as profitable as search ads, which will never happen given that Adwords is a high margin cash printing machine. Hence why every other product of theirs ends up in a graveyard because it can never compare to its monopoly on search

More generally, is there any thing that can be done for companies in this situation or is growth outside the cash cow impossible? Can they spin off the new project into a subsidiary to lessen the effects of the mothership's risk and ROI demands?

All of these are assumptions (some cynical). But what is the actual reason Google is experimenting with projects in this manner? I wonder if Google is using their data-based approach here.

For someone like Google, there's no point in pursuing a product line they're not dominant in. It's all just speculation, but either google is just godawful at managing acquisitions or side projects, or they don't bother to pursue product lines where its profitable but not overwhelmingly so

Google is just a bunch of groups who try to push their own product so that they can get a good review.

If they manage to get an initial positive result and have some publicity, then the project is basically done. No one has interest in it anymore.

From Google's blog post [0]:

"We would need to essentially rebuild our entire network in Louisville to provide the great service that Google Fiber is known for, and that's just not the right business decision for us."

That's exactly what the shareholders want to hear. Capitalism's myopic focus on "maximizing shareholder returns" will usually choose the cheaper option over doing the Right Thing.

[0] https://fiber.googleblog.com/2019/02/louisville_7.html

If you look at the map at the end, they really didn't get very far in rolling it out, just a few neighborhoods (11,000 households). Works out to about $400/house, which seems reasonable.

I bet the owners of those houses could sell them to IT/steaming/gamer minded folks for a higher price than average.

I'm sure it happened several times, and the buyers are now screwed.

Not really, the fiber installs were faulty and will be removed in repairing the street damage. This really was a worst possible case effort by Google in that the fiber infrastructure isn't usable by anyone only a few months after it was "installed".

Funny to see how hard physical reality hits the Valley types, which is saddening because G has very smart people, it'd be wonderful for them to continue working on real world problems maybe it'd change their culture a little bit as well. Their surpluses have to go somewhere, and the FANGs are sitting on a lot of cash they might be able to put to better use than simply by managing it like a hedge fund.

Instead, they should build their network there, as promised. Though $4M are peanuts in comparison with costs of building it.

“The payments, to be made over 20 months, will cover removing fiber cables ”

WISPs should be allowed access to the fiber network instead of removing it.

The fiber isn't salvageable. Google did an "experimental" deployment which turned out to be utter trash. The short summary is they dug tiny little trenches in the road, and filled the gap above the fiber with foam. Vehicles, snow plows, and construction happened, which all happens to fairly efficiently rip the guts of their network out.

That's why Google is leaving: They don't want to redeploy the entire network from scratch.

> That's why Google is leaving: They don't want to redeploy the entire network from scratch.

I don't think the "from scratch" part really matters here when they were a percent or two done at most, and they have to pay to fix the roads anyway.

It's more that they don't want to deploy a network at all.

This is true - I've seen the pictures and it wasn't pretty.

But surely the lead ins to the houses (the fibre in people's front yards) is useful still? That is, after all, the costliest part of a fibre rollout.

On side streets I heard the quality of workmanship dropped even further, from micro-trenches with cabling a few inches below the road surface to cables that were barely covered and eventually becoming tripping hazards.

Possibly Caused by shoddy work by contractors as well - I have heard documented horror stories of contractors cutting the ends off telegraph poles to make emplacing new poles quicker.

/Some/ of the fiber might be salvageable.

The reason why Google is pulling out is because they tried nano trenching the fiber into the street and sealing over the top of it with a rubber like sealer and they had major problems with that sealer bonding to the road. It would peel up and get destroyed as cars went over it. Google is backing out because their existing plan all needs to be removed and replaced and the road surface needs to be fixed. Giving a WISP access to that fiber would just be a cop out for Google to avoid fixing the issues that they caused.

The actual reason, the core of this, has nothing to do with micro-trenching and everything to do with them not being allowed to use the existing network of utility poles due to bigger telco's lobbying the governments against it, and winning. AT&T, Comcast etc were fighting tooth and nail to not allow Google on their poles, which led to google attempting micro-trenching as a proof of concept.

Incorrect historical revisionism. Google was always allowed to use the utility poles. It lobbied Louisville to get a special law passed that would allow it to not only use the utility poles, but relocate other peoples’ wires to make space on the poles while putting up their own. (Ordinarily, the owner of the lines does the relocation.) AT&T challenged that law in court.[1] The city defended the law at its own expense, and won fairly early in the process (on a motion to dismiss). AT&T did not appeal. That was two years ago. According to the article, Google didn’t even start nano-trenching and signing up people for “fiber hoods” until October 2017, after the lawsuit was already over.[2]

[1] AT&T did not challenge Google’s right to use the utility poles, only the law allowing Google contractors to relocate AT&T’s equipment and wires in the process. These laws are probably a good idea on the whole, but given the shoddy work Google’s contractors evidently did with the city’s streets, maybe AT&T’s complaint wasn’t so dumb after all.

[2] The whole concept of “fiberhoods” is another concession to Google that other providers do not get. Almost everywhere, franchise agreements require universal coverage of the city, not just build-out in places with demonstrated demand. Moreover, Google wasn’t required to pay for various additional concessions that Charter had to pay in Louisville, like wiring up government buildings and providing public access channels and a studio for government use. Those provisions are routine for cable franchises, but Google Fiber categorically refuses any deal that has them.

re: footnote 1:

Google only lobbied for that law because AT&T was acting with malicious compliance -- intentionally doing the work as late as possible, so as to interfere with Google's rollout.

Not true. Google started negotiations with Louisville in 2015. The city passed the ordinance in February 2016 to become more attractive as a Fiber City candidate: https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/politics/metro-go... (“Tonight's vote puts Louisville one step closer toward becoming a Google Fiber city.”). Google made the official selection of Louisville as a Fiber City in April 2017, and as of that date had not even applied for any work permits: https://www.techrepublic.com/article/google-fiber-officially.... The lawsuit was resolved by August 2017, four months after Google made the official selection and two months before Google started construction.

Google was right to lobby for the law—it’s a good law and there is ongoing work to require similar laws at the federal level. But as far as what happened in Louisville it’s a red herring. It was a theoretical fight over what AT&T theoretically could have done to hold up deployment, had Google theoretically chosen to deploy over poles. (Note additionally that AT&T proposed a compromise in the city council that would’ve allowed Google contractors to do the make-ready work, but they would have to file work plans in advance and give the equipment owners 60 days to object. So the actual fight was narrower than “one touch make ready,” and far narrower than “access to poles” at all, as stated above by OP.)

It should be underscored too that this is a large part of why the city government is hugely angry about this whole situation, even if they can't go on record about it.

The city agreed at huge cost to fight for the One Touch Make Ready laws to use the city pole infrastructure. They agreed that would be the city's "beta test". The city has a relatively well dispersed pole grid with only a single clear owner (the power company LG&E).

The city never agreed to the "nanotrenching", but Google's lawyers have made clear that by agreeing to "beta test" anything the city also agreed to "beta test" everything, including "nanotrenching" which would not have passed even a basic civil engineer inspection had it gone through appropriate planning channels.

Google could have attached to the poles, the city even fought AT&T to let them on the poles without a proper CLEC license: https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/politics/metro-go...

In return, Google did not use said pole attachment rights, damaged roads and left broken infrastructure & promises.

At the same time, I don’t think that if you were truly serious, you’d do your deployment with a completely unproven technique.

>The actual reason, the core of this, has nothing to do with micro-trenching

I agree that incumbent providers were doing anything and everything they could to hinder Google but the fact of the matter is that if nanotrenching hadn't failed Google wouldn't have pulled out.

Why can't they just leave the infrastructure there in case somebody else decides to utilize it at some point?

Because their infrastructure failed. Nature is forcing it out of its tiny trench and on to the roads, where it’s getting cut by cars. You can see the state of it in the link below.


Wow that's not what you expect when you think of Google engineering. In some other photos the actual fibre is now above the ground.

It's the new picture of Google Engineering for at least some of us now. It's very hard to trust a company that failed this spectacularly, doing something so clearly very dumb.

This. I was thrilled when Google announced Louisville would be getting service. Louisville is a relatively tiny city in comparison, and not long after the announcement both AT&T and Time Warner/Spectrum lowered prices AND raised speeds. AT&T dramatically increased their own fiber rollout too.

When I first started hearing about the micro/nano trenching issues... I was really shocked Google would be so careless and downright stupid. After being allowed to use the poles, they chose to trench? In a city that not only regularly floods, but has near-constant road construction? Never mind how little quality control they imposed on the contractors to trench the lines, half of them appear to have been laid on the ground and half-ass covered with some dirt. It's an absolute disgrace of civil engineering, particularly from such a large and engineering-centric company.

Also, just as an aside, now that Google has completely abandoned Louisville and we're left with Spectrum and AT&T in most areas... Both have raised prices, and it appears that AT&T is starting to slow it's fiber rollout in some areas.

As I pointed out in another thread, Louisville is in the middle of Karst country and hugely restricts underground work for very good reasons due to all the limestone underneath the city. The city was very clear they had to use the utility poles because more than a century of civil engineering backs up the city's reliance on its utility poles. Google knew trenching wasn't a viable solution in the city and they did it anyway.

it's not "infrastructure" it's small cuts in the road(which is the reason why it failed). if they left it as is, it would probably turn into potholes that the city would have to fix

There turned out to be mechanical issues with their shallow trench design in Louisville's climate, and with their road conditions (ploughs, salt, grit, etc.), and once they found that out they didn't think they could improve the design sufficiently to function in Louisville while remaining solvent.

They found this out pretty early in their deployment, they were only a couple per cent into the deployment before it became a serious issue.

To my mind, they found out pretty late. If they didn't take our climate into account during the design process, they failed before they began. It's not like these were unusual weather occurrences. Further, they lobbied metro council to pass one-touch make ready and incur the expenses of a lawsuit from AT&T. And how many poles did they end up using? None, because they gave up and went home.

That's not much at all

better then $47, I guess, if all you think about is money

Isn't there already conduit in these cities to put the fibre in? In my part of the UK the existing phone lines run in conduits underground and you can add a new line in there fairly easily. If they don't have conduit I wonder if they could run the line in the sewers, which already run to most houses and are large?

The only reason Google tried the nanotrenching is because AT&T fought them tooth and nail on using the telephone polls.

There was no dispute about Google’s right to use the telephone poles. It was about an ordinance the city passed that allowed Google’s contractors to relocate AT&T’s equipment, instead of giving AT&T a chance to do the relocation itself. (The same contractors responsible for tearing up Louisville streets: http://wdrb.images.worldnow.com/images/17611056_G.jpeg) Also, the lawsuit was resolved just four months after Google selected Louisville as a Fiber City, two months before Google started nano-trenching, and 18 months before Google gave up after having covered just a few neighborhoods.

Why were poles the only other option? What about conduit underground?

Among other reasons, the city is in the heart of karst country [0], which is to say that most of the deep rock under it is water-soluble Limestone. Everything dug below the city needs to be carefully managed to avoid cave-ins, sinkholes, water problems, etc.

(This geographical topology is also why for instance Mammoth Cave National Park is nearby, and has one of the largest known and explored cave systems in North America.)

The city has a very robust utility pole grid and almost all of its infrastructure has always been on utility poles.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karst

ETA: Which is also to say that utility poles were not just the only other option, they were the only sustainable option period in this city, with this climate, and this geography. Google knew that going in to the project and still decided to try something different that history should have convinced them was doomed to fail.

Google specifically wanted to try a technology called nanotrenching. They just dig 5cm. It didn’t work because it serms any road engineer knows the seal won’t hold, and cars will wreck the cables very fast.


They did the microtrenching for my neighborhood in Provo and it seems to be working alright. One difference in my location from what the linked pictures show is that they put the trench right between the the asphalt and the cement of the curb. They also used a small conduit to house the fiber. We’ll see what a few more years brings, but so far so good.

You'd think they could test that on a limited scale before rolling it out in an entire city.

When you're Google, a city is a limited scale.

In general, no. In a lot of the established USA, all lines were run overhead on poles. New neighborhoods are typically now built with underground everything, but that's here nor there. The densely populated parts of Louisville where Google was attempting are all overhead phone/power/cable. Going underground would have been prohibitively expensive.

Good to see Google spending the money to fix the damage to city streets. Kudos!

If any utility work need to dig perpendicular to the trench, wouldn't cut the fiber right away?

451: Unavailable due to legal reasons

We recognize you are attempting to access this website from a country belonging to the European Economic Area (EEA) including the EU which enforces the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and therefore access cannot be granted at this time. For any issues, contact digitalteam@wdrb.com or call 502-585-0811.

How much should a small local news organization in Louisville, KY be expected to pay to comply with laws on random other continents? I think they made the right choice here.

It would cost less to just ignore the foreign law than to "comply" by blocking foreign users.

In the short-term, sure.

In the long-term, that might lead to your staff being arrested for contempt of court the next time they go on vacation to Europe.

> How much should a small local news organization in Louisville, KY be expected to pay to comply with laws on random other continents? I think they made the right choice here.

If they weren't doing anything shady with data collection in the first place, they'd have very little to do to comply.

> random other continents

Europe.... its not Antarctica.

From glancing at their site, it doesn't look special at all. Google maps, Analytics, Facebook, and ads. You don't have to hire a legal team and make them work for a year to write a GDPR-compliant privacy information for that, you can get one from a wizard that will be fine and only set you back $20.

GDPR is much more than just having a privacy policy.

If your business case is running a website, it really isn't. Yeah, you need contracts with Google for Analytics etc, but that's done with a few clicks.

If you're running an ad network, or an Analytics service etc, that's something very different. Do they do that?

Are they harvesting my personal information? If so they should be dealing with it properly

Prepare to be downvoted into nothingness!


Be thankful your private data was just protected. They wouldn't have the block if they were not abusing users data.

Not necessarily. They might not be able to afford to hire a data protection officer, or meet the other absurd requirements of the GDPR.

You don't need to hire a DPO. They probably don't even need one, but even if they do, it's just a role they can assign to an existing employee.

Stop spreading FUD.

Or they listened to some consultant who told them they needed to pay him big money.

The smallest business I know just gave that task to the General Firefighter, who has spent zero minutes working time on the new task so far.

GDPR is there it wasn't as difficult as everyone said. I am, honestly pissed of by the hysteria by know.

Sorry that we Europeans have laws that need to be followed even by white collars...

There is no requirement to hire a data protection officer nor are the requirements of GDPR absurd. Stop being an apologist.

Sorry, I want to choose when when I allow to abuse my private data and when not. I don't need any thirdparty that doesn't even know who I am to do it for me.

I think your view of the world is harmful for freedom I value very much.

The GDPR is precisely trying to give you that choice. It was the website in question that has chosen to block you, not the EU.

They blocked him to cover their ass from legal issues. Given that this is a response that many will take who don't wish to bear the burden of potential legal scrutiny, the GDPR is in part impacting his freedom as a citizen in the EU to access outside content.

GDPR gives me this choice -- either you will:

a) read articles of companies that spend $100.000 for law consulting companies so the company is sure they follow GDPR rules, b) not read any articles at all.

It's a shitty choice, IF it's a choice at all, because it promotes rich companies and punishes small ones. It promotes monopoly.

GDPR doesn't say to the companies: "you need to give the user a choice". It says: "you have additional 100 regulations to obey from today or we'll fine your ass so much you'll have to close your company". Some companies don't want to waste time/money to analyze those regulations because they're small, or because they want to actually focus on the business logic instead of interpreting the law that won't help them gain profits. Granted, there are also situations that some companies don't want to resign from their poor/questionable management of data. But they won't do me any harm because I know how to defend from them. And I dislike that someone forces on me their inferior method of defence, when I can do better.

Following the GDPR is easy though, if you have any kind of decent data policies it's usually almost done already.

> a) read articles of companies that spend $100.000 for law consulting companies so the company is sure they follow GDPR rules, b) not read any articles at all.

Which company do you know that spent that much money to make a simple news website GDPR-proof?

Yes, it was a lot of annoyance to deal with a year ago, because we had zero precedent, badly worded laws, idiotic domestic laws, and predatory lawyers creating urban legends. Yes, I hated it too. My guess is that about 30% of sites in Europe are compliant. Nothing happens to the other 70%. How bad was the transition? For your average website, it cost you about 50 Euros and a few hours of work to understand the basics. Once you've worked on one, the time required drops massively, and the money drops to zero.

More like thanks crappy content provider who would rather block users instead of have a reasonable privacy policy.

Ehh, the site is local news for Louisville. They might not be consciously doing anything against GDPR, just decided that the cost to make sure they're GDPR compliant isn't worth the minuscule number of added viewers.

This isn't a local news website though, it's a branch of Fox News pretending to be a local news site ("affiliate television station").

No, we've been over this. If they were a local news site, they would have nothing to fear, since they can't reasonably be expected to be doing business with Europeans. If they are a huge multi-national pretending to be a local news site, then the GDPR block makes sense.

Sure. Even if the dreaded GDPR requirements actually mean "respect your viewer's privacy", and might benefit locals too...

The funny thing is, as local news for Louisville, GDPR doesn't even apply. (Yes, this was more than clarified already.) More than likely, they implemented some third party adtech tracking vendor, which is by default blocking EU countries from sites now, or has to for it's own compliance across it's entire network.

Just get a VPN and get around the great firewall of Europe.

The firewall is on the server, not the "Europe" end.

A VPN that makes you appear American would still work in that case.

The commentor is almost certainly making a sarcastic comment that the european data standards act as a firewall conceptually since some companies block europeans from accessing their services because they don't want to do gdpr.

Nice looking roads are more important than the internet?

Google isn't bringing the internet to Louisville. So yes, nice roads are better than the internet that Google isn't providing us.

if ppl run over the cables, you end up with shitty roads and no internet.

Potholes ripping a $2000 exhaust of cars and being sued are :-)

This article doesn't say that. Maybe read it again.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact