From Alpharetta to Avondale Estates, Sandy Springs to Smyrna, folks fed up with chronically unreliable internet connections, abysmal customer service and expensive monthly bills lapped up Google Fiber’s promise.
And there was an altruistic component, too: Google Fiber would help close the digital divide in part by extending discounted or free high-speed internet to low-income residents.
Beyond the activity some residents saw at the street level, plenty of action was taking place behind the scenes. Engineers mapped out nearly every mile of fiber — enough to get to Iceland, according to Google.
The backbone of the system is a miles-long ring of fiber circling the city. From the ring, glass optical lines branch off and feed into “fiber huts,” structures about the size of a one-car garage. Within Atlanta’s city limits, Google installed a dozen of the prefab units between mid-2015 and early 2016 at a cost of about $150,000 to upwards of $250,000 each. When all was said and done, the company had dropped more than 20 of the huts around metro Atlanta.
Once inside the hut, Google’s fiber optic cables snake through rows of switches, amplifiers and other equipment before embarking on the last mile or so to customers’ homes. One hut can supply gigabit internet speeds to 20,000 or 30,000 homes.
It’s that last mile that has proven to be the trickiest and the most expensive mile of the overall build-out. (Google Fiber has not disclosed the total cost of the Atlanta project, but its first fiber foray, in the Kansas City region, is believed to have carried a billion-dollar price tag.)
Google has released little public information about the Atlanta rollout delays, and company officials declined WABE’s multiple requests for an interview on the status of the project and other specifics. But it’s possible that, in the time it has taken Google Fiber to figure out how to travel the last mile to people’s homes, fiber optic technology may no longer be the best way to get there.
Atlanta isn’t the only city to see Google Fiber falter. In Nashville, big telecom operators sued and all but blocked Google Fiber from tapping half of the city’s 88,000 utility poles — essential for completing the backbone of its last-mile delivery. Nearly four years after the company announced it was coming to Nashville, Google Fiber finally reached 10 Nashville neighborhoods late last year.
Google Fiber didn’t face as many obstacles here, although its Atlanta build-out has been anything but a textbook case. One thing is indisputable: most who were once gaga over Google are now fed up with its failed fiber promise.
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