Google Fiber isn’t dead, it’s expanding

Google Fiber, the Alphabet division focused on offering high-speed internet access in the US, has ambitious plans to expand its fiber services in the next three to five years, the company announced in a blog post. It wants to launch fiber services in five new states, which include previously announced plans to enter Arizona and Colorado, as well as Nebraska, Nevada, and Idaho. In total, Reuters reports that Google Fiber hopes to expand to 22 metro areas, from 17 today.

It’s a big turnaround from 2016, when the business reportedly layed off 9 percent of its workforce and paused plans to launch services in over half a dozen cities. In subsequent years, reports emerged that the company was canceling hundreds of installations in existing metro areas like Kansas City, and left Louisville, Kentucky entirely after an ill-fated experiment with laying fiber cabling in ultra-shallow trenches.

Now, however, it seems the company is in a position to grow, with its CEO Dinni Jain telling Reuters that the team is ready to “add a little bit more build velocity.” Its launch in West Des Moines, Iowa in March was its first new state in five years, and the following month it said it would be expanding to Des Moines. Reuters notes that Google Fiber did more building in 2021 than in “the previous few years combined.”

Despite his hopes to regain momentum, Jain says Google Fiber’s ambitions are modest. “There was an impression 10 years ago that Google Fiber was trying to build the entire country,” he told Reuters. “What we are gesturing here is, ‘No, we are not trying to build the entire country.’” As well as expanding into the new states, Jain’s blog post says expansion will continue in existing metro areas.

Google Fiber dates back to 2010, and was originally launched to hep drive the adoption of faster internet speeds at lower cost, partly by offering it directly, and partly by pressuring incumbent US providers to compete. As a former Time Warner executive, Jain says he felt the pressure from Google directly. “We were so paranoid,” he tells Reuters.

News of Google Fiber’s expansion plans comes at a time of belt-tightening at Google and across the tech industry more generally. Last month the company announced a two-week hiring freeze while it reviewed its headcount needs, making it the latest tech giant to take stock amidst a worsening economic climate. Alphabet has also been more willing to shutter experimental projects in recent years. It shut down its balloon internet service Loon last year, and wound down its energy kite division in 2020.

“The intent is to build businesses that will be successful in and of their own right and that is what we are trying to do at Google Fiber for sure,” Jain tells Reuters.