Broadband Communities

NOV-DEC 2016

BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.

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86 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | | NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2016 INDUSTRY ANALYSIS Salvaging Google Fiber's Achievements Google Fiber may have hit the "pause" button on its fiber-to-the-home rollout, but it still has an opportunity to help communites obtain better broadband. By Benoît Felten / Diffraction Analysis I n the wake of Google Access CEO Craig Barratt's "Goodbye Access" post on the Google Fiber blog, papers left, right and center are predicting the end of Google Fiber. Barratt tries to sound upbeat, but in essence he's announcing that Google Fiber won't expand further (pending a strategic reevaluation), that people will be laid off and that he will leave. I don't know Craig and can't really comment on his tenure as Access CEO, but that doesn't exactly sound like good news. For analysts like me, this is a complicated topic for a very simple reason: For anyone other than Google, an infrastructure venture on the scale of Google Fiber would have had to disclose numbers by now. Wall Street would have asked for take rates, average revenue per user (ARPU) and all kinds of other metrics to evaluate the validity of the investment. Before the Alphabet restructuring, however, Fiber was just another Google project. Now that Access is its own company, we might have expected these numbers to come out. e problem is, Access isn't talking. So we're left to speculate. I've been thinking about this for a couple of years at least, and I want to share these thoughts now that Google Fiber seems to be at a turning point. Just to be clear: I'm not sharing information but analyzing and speculating on the basis of what little we know and trying to think how what's been achieved might be salvaged and expanded upon. A SCHIZOPHRENIC PROJECT My impression has always been that Google Fiber was a schizophrenic project. At the very beginning, those Google decision-makers who were more interested in achieving important policy goals seemed to want Google Fiber to be a catalyst – something that would shift the market with a bang and then be a shared experience for others (public or private) to take over. e idea of a blueprint was floated in the early days. But there were also those who seemed to think Google Fiber could become a new business for the company, something not just aimed at shifting market perceptions and shaking the complacency of telco and cable incumbents but a profitable business line in its own right. at has always seemed to me an unlikely proposition. I confront on a daily basis the paradox of short term–focused telecom operators considering long-term fiber investment efforts, but the operators' short term is longer than the short term of Google's core business by an order of magnitude. Unless there was a long game plan to view Google Fiber as the "pension fund" arm of Google's finances, it didn't really make sense to me. To be honest, I didn't much care about that second proposition, anyway. e U.S. market is already plagued by a lack of competition in fixed broadband. Replacing one closed monopoly with another (no matter how much sexier) didn't

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