Thursday, October 26, 2017

Google Fiber is Coming to San Antonio — We Just Don't Know When

Posted By on Thu, Oct 26, 2017 at 3:35 PM

TWITTER VIA @GOOGLEFIBER
  • Twitter via @googlefiber
Earlier this week, Google Fiber tweeted a GIF of cowboy boots line dancing on a wooden floor with the slightly ominous phrase: "Google Fiber is coming."

It came with a link and the text: "Alamo City! Get ready for faster 🚀, fairer 😀 , kinder ❤️ Internet. We’re almost there. #GoogleFiber"

But Google Fiber wouldn't give us a real timeframe of when this long-promised fiber will go live in San Antonio. The city department that works closest with Google, Transportation and Capital Improvements, seems equally in the dark: a spokeswoman told the Current Thursday that Google hasn’t provided them with a specific date or timeline, either.

The link in Google Fiber's cheery Tuesday tweet went straight to a "404 — ERROR" page.

Which may be the best summary of San Antonio's experience with Google Fiber thus far.

Google initially expressed its interest in providing fast, cheap, and reliable fiber optic internet to San Antonio in 2014, following in the footsteps of Austin. The City Council approved a 20-year, $1 million lease agreement with the company that same year. The rollout appeared smooth until neighborhoods realized a fiber network meant the construction of 15 small shed-like buildings — or, "fiber huts" — to store the fiber optic cables across the city.

One particularly influential group of Northeast Side neighbors was especially irked with the "ugly industrial buildings" going up in their local Haskin Park. Other people in areas of town without reliable internet options (unlike the Northeast Side) weren't bothered by the huts. But, to get the entire city connected, Google needed every hut up and running. And Northeast Sider's opposition convinced city officials to grind all Google construction to a halt in January 2017. The city promised this wasn't the end of Google Fiber, they were just going to figure out a way to hide the huts.

Since then, the relationship between the city and Google Fiber has appeared strained. If it exists at all. In January, Deputy City Manager Peter Zanoni told City Council that Google has "been pretty quiet," and has only been sharing "limited information" with the city. There has been no update on the long-awaited project since new Mayor Ron Nirenberg took office in June. 

Meanwhile, AT&T's fiber equivalent, "AT&T Internet 1000," increased its coverage in San Antonio — with Nirenberg's warm support.

Prior to Tuesday's alert, Google's most recent update came Oct. 4, in a blog post explaining that fiber in San Antonio and Louisville, KY wouldn't come with Google Fiber's traditional TV add-on. "We’ll focus on providing superfast Internet - and the endless content possibilities that creates," the blog read.

Louisville has also seen its ups and downs with Google Fiber — including lawsuits filed against the city by competing internet providers. But on Oct. 18, Google announced that "Derby-fast" fiber was available in select Louisville neighborhoods. Will San Antonio be next?

At the very least, we'll be talking about it. The agenda for next Wednesday's City Council work session includes a briefing on the city lease agreement with Google Fiber. Until then, keep refreshing that 404 page.


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