Partners Disappointed As Google Halts Fiber Expansion Plans, Cuts 9 Percent Of Fiber Staff

The realities of rolling out a nationwide fiber footprint to deliver high-speed internet services may have finally caught up with Google. The Internet giant is shelving Google Fiber deployments and will lay off about 9 percent of the Google Access staff, the division running the Fiber program.

In addition, Craig Barratt, a Google executive who became Google Access' CEO this year, is stepping down amid the turmoil, but said he will stay on as an advisor for the company.

Despite Google Fiber's limited reach, the channel was very interested in it as an offering that could potentially compete with incumbent cable providers.

[Related: Google Fiber Falling Short Of Hype As Internet Giant Reportedly Considers Switch To Wireless Strategy]

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Google Fiber burst onto the telecommunications scene with very competitively-priced fiber connectivity prices, said Andrew Pryfogle, senior vice president of cloud transformation for Petaluma, Calif.-based Intelisys, a Google partner.

"I'm disappointed to see Google halting their expansion," Pryfogle said. "The idea of Google in markets all over the country with a very robust fiber footprint and disruptive pricing, as well as embracing the channel, was very attractive to us."

As of Tuesday, Google officially halted plans to roll out the Google Fiber broadband service to eight new cities that had been in talks with the company. The cities included: Dallas, Tampa and Jacksonville, Fla., Los Angeles and San Jose, Calif., Oklahoma City, Phoenix, and Portland, Ore.

Google Access, a unit of Google's corporate parent, Alphabet Inc., which has been overseeing the five-year-old Google Fiber program, will lose between 100 and 200 employees, according to a report from Business Insider.

The latest news proves that building out a nationwide fiber footprint is a massive undertaking, solution providers say.

"It's not an easy endeavor, and I think it shows the strength of providers like Comcast and their cable brethren who have made those big investments, and are charging a fair market rate," Pryfogle said.

Google Fiber ran into trouble in August when the Internet giant collided with legacy carriers – AT&T and Comcast in Nashville regarding utility pole installation and wiring policies. Google also faced a similar issue with AT&T in Louisville, Ky.

Even solution providers with customers located in Google Fiber cities are having trouble getting access to the service.

Jeffrey Lee, vice president and chief technology officer for Carceron, an Atlanta-based managed services provider, said that while his company "absolutely" wants to be able to offer Google Fiber to inquiring customers, it hasn't been possible.

"None of my customers can get it, even those in Atlanta," Lee said. "It's just so limited."

Google's Barratt said that Google Fiber will make changes to focus its business and product strategy, and incorporate new technology. The latest Google Access shakeup, coupled with the run-ins Google has had in the fiber space, has the industry wondering if the Internet giant would instead pursue wireless opportunities.

Pryfolgle, for one, fully expects Google will remain committed to building out a bandwidth strategy.

"While fiber is the highest capacity, it is also the most expensive, so I expect them to look at alternative technologies," he said.

While Google did not respond to CRN's request for comment prior to publication, Barratt said in a statement that the layoffs won't impact the handful of cities where Google Fiber has been deployed and is in operation today, including Kansas City; Austin, Texas; and Charlotte, N.C.