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Google Fiber is in trouble

July 18th, 2017 at 4:46 PM
Google Fiber wireless broadband

Wind the clock back two years, and it looked like Google Fiber was going to save us all. It was rolling out cheap gigabit fiber to entire cities in record time, and it just seemed like a matter of when, not if, we all had the option of Google internet.

But then things started to go wrong. The speed of rollout slowed down, it entered into arguments with other utility companies over using poles — and then things got worse. Six months ago, the CEO stepped down, layoffs were announced, and a “pivot” to wireless broadband was announced. Today, there’s been another twist, and it’s not good for Google.

Replacement CEO Gregory McCray has stepped down after five months on the job, with no replacement immediately lined up. Bloomberg reports that McCray had a rough start to the job:

[McCray] made comments during his first address to Access staff that upset several employees and prompted multiple reports to human resources, according to two people familiar with the meeting.

At the meeting, held in March, McCray was asked about his passion for sailing, which Page mentioned in an introductory email. McCray said that his wife would often call his boat his “mistress.” Every man was entitled to a mistress, the new CEO proclaimed to audible gasps, said the people who asked not to be identified discussing company matters.

It’s unclear if that event, or separate issues, led to McCray’s departure.

But either way, losing the second CEO in six months is bad news for Google Fiber. As it currently stands, plans to expand to markets are on hold, and Google seems to be having an identity crisis. Although it’s still serving fixed-line broadband over fiber cable in existing markets, it’s also talking about using millimeter-wave tech to bring internet from the end of the street to people’s homes.

It’s a nice idea, but Google will be fighting a whole new war if it goes that way. Verizon and AT&T have both invested heavily in millimeter-wave 5G, and half of that is meant to be used for fixed wireless broadband to homes. Without investment in spectrum and R&D, Google Fiber is going to end up stuck between a rock and and a monopoly, with nowhere to go.

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