Internet

Google Fiber just gave up on me -- and many of its employees

In a blog post, Google says it's "paused" plans to roll out its fiber-optic internet service to any new cities -- including ones in its own backyard.

CNET/Marguerite Reardon

In the San Francisco Bay Area, home to countless tech titans, there's precious little competition for home internet access. The choice is generally between Comcast and AT&T -- assuming there's a choice at all.

There was a spark of hope for me and fellow Bay Area residents: Google Fiber, which promised to bring unheard-of speeds and meaningful competition to the area by connecting speedy fiber optical cables directly to the home. (Even if you don't live in the SF Bay Area, this story might sound familiar -- Fiber had planned to roll out in 34 US cities across 9 metropolitan areas as of 2014.)

But in a blog post Tuesday, Google announced that it's putting those plans on hold. Though the company says it'll continue operations in cities where it already has a footprint, Google plans to "pause" its operations everywhere else.

What does "pause" really mean? A source familiar with the matter tells CNET that while nothing is for certain, the company plans to prioritize cheaper, faster methods than fiber-to-the-home, such as the company's recently acquired Webpass wireless technology.

The pause will also include layoffs and restructuring. The post included the news that Google Fiber boss Craig Barratt is stepping down as CEO (though he'll continue as an advisor), and Ars Technica reports that as many as 9 percent of all his staffers will be laid off.

If you see history repeating itself, you're not alone. When Verizon said it would "pause" deployment of its FiOS fiber-optic internet service a number of years ago, it never resumed rolling out to new regions, either. Just months later, the Associated Press reported that it would stop new developments for good.

Verizon even tried to augment fiber-optic services with experimental wireless broadband services, much like Google is doing now.

Still, wireless technology is much improved since FiOS stopped its rollout, and we can't say Google hasn't spurred some competition; AT&T started a big new gigabit internet push after Google set the wheels in motion.

But it sounds like the dream of fiber-to-the-home is still a dream, for now.

Here are the previously named regions that won't see Google Fiber anytime soon, if at all:

  • Dallas, TX
  • Jacksonville, FL
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Oklahoma City, OK
  • Phoenix, AZ (including Scottsdale and Tempe)
  • Portland, OR (inc'l Beaverton, Hillsboro, Gresham, Lake Oswego, Tigard)
  • San Jose, CA (inc'l Santa Clara, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Palo Alto)
  • Tampa, FL
  • Boston, MA*
  • Chicago, IL*
  • Miami, FL*
  • Oakland, CA (inc'l Berkeley, Emeryville)*
  • San Diego, CA*
  • San Francisco, CA*

*= Google will offer wireless Webpass internet instead

You can see a full list of Google Fiber cities at this link.