The rumors of Google Fiber’s death have been greatly exaggerated

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[Commentary] Few stories in tech have been more breathlessly hyped on the way up and gleefully eulogized on the way down than Google Fiber. Since Google announced last fall that it was pausing Google Fiber’s expansion into new markets, Access, the Google subsidiary that houses Google Fiber, has laid off more than 20% of its workforce, faced continued delays in Fiber’s existing markets and gone through three chief executives (or four, depending on how you’re counting). By any traditional yardstick of success, Google Fiber has been a failure. But it may have achieved exactly what Google set out to do: disrupt the U.S. home broadband market. Like an obscure punk band, Google Fiber has been far more influential than its finances would suggest. Google’s disruption of the home broadband market did not materially change the competitive environment for home broadband, other than in a handful of cities. Google’s predictably massive capital costs and slower-than-expected market share gains demonstrated again why no one is willing to undertake large-scale fiber overbuilds of cable and telco incumbents. But Google motivated providers to upgrade their networks and drop their broadband prices and provided a tailwind for consumers’ migration from traditional pay TV to cheaper over-the-top video. Given Google’s innovations in network planning, fixed wireless and over-the-top video, one can see how Google is laying the groundwork for a wireless-led disruption of the home broadband market, where the capital costs of last-mile wiring and lack of a traditional pay-TV product are no longer deterrents to market entry. Much like Google Fiber’s first disruption of the U.S. home broadband market, the next disruption will not require Google to build everywhere to have widespread influence. [Micah Sachs is a principal at CMA Strategy, a boutique advisory firm that advises providers and investors in the telecommunications, media and information technology markets.]


The rumors of Google Fiber’s death have been greatly exaggerated