Update 5/21: In the original WABE report on Google Fiber, the news outlet did not report that Google Fiber asked for exclusivity with a proposal to the Atlanta Housing Authority, simply that the AHA may have interpreted their proposal as exclusive, according to public records obtained by WABE.
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Wi-Fi, the Internet, the World Wide Web: They’re a blessing in this day and age. However, like all things, there are some headaches involved (as anyone who’s ever set up their internet at home and been on the phone with tech support for two hours would know).
WABE, Atlanta’s NPR affiliate, reported Google Fiber has given Atlantans more migraines than others in this recent story that’s picking up speed around town.
Residents and politicians alike have begun to question the reality of Google Fiber—technology touted as innovative enough to put Atlanta on the map with other high-tech cities like Seoul and Zurich at the announcement of its launch in 2015—and when exactly we’ll be seeing gigabit-speed, according to WABE.
Municipalities like College Park said they paved the way for Google Fiber to come to their city, cutting red tape and bringing out the southern hospitality to reap the benefits of a town powered by the fastest internet speeds possible. Earlier this year, William Moore, head of engineering for College Park, told WABE Google Fiber had completed all requirements to start connecting residents, aside from signing an application and paying $250 for four required permits. But representatives from the company never showed up to complete the paperwork.
Currently, the only connected residence in College Park is a $41 million apartment building–the most expensive rental property in College Park–that was built last year. It’s the most updated property in the city in decades, WABE reports. Some residents are quoted questioning whether Google’s mission to provide gigabit-speed internet to anyone–including free internet to those in low-income housing–was a false promise.
WABE’s story also says things get even more hazy when a deal fell through between Google Fiber and the Atlanta Housing Authority. The company approached the housing authority shortly following its launch announcement in the city to wire 282 apartments at the AHA’s Coby Spear Highrise complex in the Old Fourth Ward for 10 years for free. According to public records obtained by WABE, the AHA interpreted the deal as an exclusive contract and the talks fell through.
Atlanta Inno confirmed with a Google representative Thursday afternoon that the company does not enter into exclusive service agreements with the public or private housing partners they connect.
“Unfortunately, our rollout in Atlanta hasn’t met our original goals,” a Google Fiber spokesperson said in a statement to Atlanta Inno Thursday afternoon. “That said, we’re connecting new customers in the Atlanta area – and all of our fiber cities – every day. At this time, we’re available in over 100 multi-unit residential buildings and portions of several neighborhoods. We’re currently focused on providing an excellent customer experience for our customers, and we continue to engage with partners across the city to work on digital inclusion issues as well. (You can find our 2017 Atlanta Community impact report which was released last week here).”
The following map depicts an apartment finder by Google Fiber, which identifies all of the apartments in Metro Atlanta with fiber installed as well as those scheduled to receive it. According to a Google spokesperson, these placements around the city are due to limited spacing and neighborhoods connected or expected to connect are closest to the fiber backbone. The selected connections have nothing to do with high-income areas, as suggested in the WABE story, the spokesperson said.
Google Fiber continues to stand by other efforts made throughout the city, including several missions mentioned in the company’s 2017 Atlanta Community Impact Report. The company says 2,600 families in affordable housing have access to no-cost fiber internet in their homes through its Gigabit Communities program, with 600 units built in 2017. The company has continued other communal efforts in Atlanta, including flying out a Peachtree Ridge High School senior, Shaza Mehdi, to present during the keynote session at Google I/O 2018, the tech giant’s annual developers conference in Mountain View, California. At the conference, Mehdi demoed PlantMD — a smartphone app she developed that helps identify different types of plants and plant diseases using Google’s open source machine learning framework, TensorFlow.
Experts quoted in WABE’s story have also agreed that while Google Fiber has experienced a bigger delay than initially expected, the introduction of the tech has brought significant competition from Comcast and AT&T into the city, bringing high-speed internet and fiber to low-income areas in Atlanta like Google originally planned. It appears the company might have reached their goal, just in a rather expensive and roundabout way.