Google Fiber Was Doomed From the Start

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[Commentary] In Feb, there was a shakeup at Alphabet’s Access division (the new name for what was originally called Google Fiber). It named a new CEO, Greg McCray, and news outlets reported that hundreds of Access employees were being shifted to other parts of the Google empire. The bumpersticker from defenders of the status quo is that this means the Google Fiber experiment was a disaster. That’s simply not the case. What this set of events does usefully and colorfully signal is that we need an entirely different approach to the country’s desperate need for world-class data transmission....

The only business model for fiber that will work to produce the competition, low prices, and world-class data transport we need — certainly in urban areas — is to get local governments involved in overseeing basic, street grid-like “dark” (passive, unlit with electronics) fiber available at a set, wholesale price to a zillion retail providers of access and services. There’s plenty of patient capital sloshing around the US that would be attracted to the steady, reliable returns this kind of investment will return. That investment could be made in the form of private lending or government bonds; the important element is that the resulting basic network be a wholesale facility that any retail actor can use at a reasonable, fair cost.

[Susan Crawford is the John A. Reilly Clinical Professor of Law at Harvard Law School]


Google Fiber Was Doomed From the Start