In the race to provide the fastest Internet speeds for consumers, one of the leaders has hit a snag.
In 2011, Google started its Fiber program to bring fiber-optic gigabit Internet speeds to residents for a relatively low price. It first rolled out the program in Kansas City, Kansas, and consumers loved it. They could now get speeds over 10 times faster than what other Internet Service Providers delivered, and for the same price. Google expanded to eight more cities, and announced plans to add another 11 to that list.
That plan is dead now.
Google announced this week that Craig Barratt, the man in charge of Fiber, would be leaving his post and would only serve as an adviser to the project. At least 9% of Fiber staff will either be laid off entirely or relocated to a different position in Alphabet (Google’s parent company).
Barratt put out a statement explaining the move and how it will affect the project, saying “for most of our ‘potential Fiber cities’—those where we’ve been in exploratory discussions—we’re going to pause our operations and offices while we refine our approaches.” He then hinted at the layoff rumors: “In this handful of cities that are still in an exploratory stage, and in certain related areas of our supporting operations, we’ll be reducing our employee base.”
The cities that were originally supposed to get Fiber include Dallas, Chicago and Los Angeles. Now they won’t, and staff already in those areas could wind up having to look for a new job.
— Martin Lee (@martin3lee) October 27, 2016
The reason for all this, according to experts, is that people just aren’t switching to Fiber, and the venture is not making money. It’s eerily similar to Google Glass, a neat idea that never caught on and was too expensive to continue. It’s still unclear why people aren’t switching over, given that it’s much faster and no more expensive. but one theory is that users simply don’t have a need for such high speeds so Google Fiber never comes up on their radar.
Just like that, my Google Fiber dreams are crushed.
— Matt Starns (@themattstarns) October 27, 2016
All hope isn’t lost for people in those cities looking for high-speed Internet from Google, however. The potential plan is to move from fiber connections to wireless connections, something that will be cheaper to implement. In the meantime, it looks like it’s back to the drawing board for Google Fiber.