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Sunday, September 24, 2023


Sadly, Google Fiber won’t be visiting the Bayou City anytime soon

It’s 2014, and we’ve got Google, Google+, Google Glass, Google Fiber and so many different Google facets that the search engine that started it all doesn’t seem to be worth a second glance anymore. Google’s innovation after unrelenting innovation has made it a technological behemoth in all respects, catering to nearly every kind of tech-dependent guy or gal out there. As we all know, they’ve got the search engine, which caters to any living, breathing and cognizant human being. Everything else is just icing on the cake that we shouldn’t even be eating but that tastes too good to say no to.

There’s Google+, Google’s social media network that “aims to make sharing on the web more like sharing in real life.” Despite being associated with the world’s most largely successful company, Google+ is often referred to as a cataclysmic failure when compared to the likes of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram — or any other social network, really. Their mistake was probably in trying to make a social media network that mirrored any semblance of reality.

Then there’s Google Glass, which, I hear, if you wear on a blind date, a job interview or a meeting where you’re hoping to be found desirable in any way, shape or form … just don’t wear them.

Most importantly to Houstonians, there’s Google Fiber, Google’s answer to critical questions like “When will there be a cable provider that functions on a faster wavelength than we should’ve ever deemed necessary?” It’s a wide-reaching project with the end goal of building a nationwide, ultra-fast broadband Internet network infrastructure based on fiber-optic communication.

It’s an incredibly cool technology that boasts itself as being 100 times faster than the average broadband connection. It’s got crystal-clear high definition, a terabyte of cloud storage and the capability to record eight television programs at once. Its website also explicitly states that its users “no longer have to wait on things buffering,” boasting its users’ downloads as instantaneously accessible. A Nexus 7 tablet will accompany the services, serving as the television’s remote. Basically, it’s the subject of every millennial’s dreams, daydreams, nighttime prayers and things-they’d-trade-their-spouses-for.

Why, then, haven’t we seen more of it around? That would be because out of the roughly 2,000 cities in the U.S., Google Fiber is available in only two: Kansas City, Kan. and Provo, Utah. Google Fiber has announced that it will bring its services to Austin next, but there hasn’t been anything concrete in the area.

Google’s selection process for Google Fiber-enabled cities is extremely competitive. Kansas City and Provo were the first to be chosen from a pool of roughly 1,100 cities that applied to be a part of the project. The plans Google offers are a bargain when considering the depth of the services offered. There’s a free plan, which gives basic broadband speeds (up to 5 megabytes per second for downloads and 1 mbps for uploads) at the cost of a $30 installation fee. No payments are required for the first seven years of service.

I could make a comment about seven being a biblical number, but there’s a time and a place.

The most expensive package runs at $70/month, with which you’re guaranteed a broadband Internet connection 100 times faster than standard broadband. In an unsurprising turn of events, Houstonians have been vying for their share of the service — most recently on the Reddit-based “r/Houston” forum.

Reddit, one of the most simultaneously cringe-worthy and informative hubs of the Internet, is a digital discussion board for any topic pitched by a Reddit user. Subreddits like “r/Houston” or the ruthless “r/atheism” make the topics on Reddit’s forum more manageably navigated. It’s basically a big, happy Internet family that’s always down to talk, no matter how unpleasant the topic.

Reddit user lazyal started the feed by asking the Reddit community a simple question: “Who wants Google Fiber in Houston?”

“Who doesn’t want Google Fiber in Houston?” he wrote. “It would be better than what we have now.”

“But, personally,” he added with conviction, “I say screw them all, and Houston should implement a municipal fiber optic system. It’s getting to the point that (Internet) service should be regulated like the other utilities. We need to keep the access providers separate from the content providers to keep the (Internet) as free as possible.”

Reddit users such as matthewtheninja and quakerlaw tossed around the possibility of counties surrounding Houston having access to Houston fiber optic systems, much like they have indirect access to Houston’s water supply. The user A_Felt_Pen, though, noted that Houston currently has ownership of a massive, private fiber-optic network.

Phonoscope Communications, a Houston-based fiber optics company, offers cable, phone and Internet services to numerous multi-tenant buildings across Houston. It was Houston’s first cable television company and currently holds the nation’s “largest privately-owned fiber-optic Metropolitan Area Network.” It was founded in 1953 and seems to have been laying down 70 years’ worth of groundwork that Google Fiber could use.

So why hasn’t Google scooped up Phonoscope Communications? Well, as of now, it appears that it doesn’t cater to suburban residents, who also happen to be Google Fiber’s biggest market. Phonoscope Communications seems to have more of a foothold in Houston’s business districts, which might be more of a down-the-line goal for Google Fiber.

So if Google didn’t have an interest in acquiring Phonoscope Communications or didn’t see them as a formidable threat, it’s only natural to wonder what stopped the fastest-growing city in the nation (according to Forbes) from getting served by Google Fiber.

“Why did we pick Kansas City?” said Milo Medin, Google’s vice president of access services, in a Forbes report. “We wanted to find a location where we could build quickly and efficiently. Kansas City has great infrastructure. … The utility here has all kinds of conduit in it that avoids us having to tear the streets open and a bunch of other stuff that really differentiates it from other places in the country.”

Oh. Yeah, the sprawling metropolis of Houston might not be the best place after all.

Senior staff columnist Cara Smith is a communications junior and may be reached at [email protected]


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