Clearfield’s Beranek: Google Fiber drove telcos, cable to rethink broadband strategies

Google Fiber may be in the process of realigning itself after coming to the realization that building out a fiber network is not an easy task, but it's hard not to see the influence they have had on the broader broadband market.

The service provider has shaken up the broadband market by driving incumbent telcos like AT&T and CenturyLink to increase speeds by launching their own FTTH services.

Cheri Beranek, CEO and co-founder of Clearfield, a developer of fiber management products, told FierceTelecom that Google Fiber’s presence is making them respond to the presence of a disruptive competitor.

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“I think what Google Fiber did was shake up the incumbents in saying if it’s not Google Fiber it will be someone,” Beranek said. “Whether it’s, a municipal provider or a cable company, the market is going to be in a position to responding to whoever can provide the best quality product.”

As documented in various reports, Google Fiber faced a number of challenges in some of the communities where they had planned to deliver service.

One of the main issues Google Fiber faced was getting access to local utility poles to string fiber to homes and businesses in the towns and cities it wanted to serve. To accelerate the pole attachment process in Louisville, Kentucky, Google Fiber proposed what it called a "One Touch Make Ready" ordinance.

Not surprisingly, Louisville’s incumbent telco AT&T and cable operator Comcast decided to sue the city, arguing the ordinance violates a number of state and federal laws.

Beranek said that while Google is not a company that had a traditional knowledge of building out telecom networks, it is something they could build over time.

“There’s a core competency in building out a fiber network that’s about engineering and construction that goes beyond the core competency of that organization,” Beranek said. “They are very large company and could obtain that core competency.”

Google Fiber announced in late October that it was going to halt new FTTH deployments in eight urban markets with plans to lay off 9% of its staff.

The changes at Google Fiber followed reports revealed the service provider put its planned build out of 1 Gbps to San Jose, Mountain View and Palo Alto, California, on hold. Mountain View and Palo Alto city officials said they were told that Google is still committed to their projects. 

Beranek said that Google Fiber’s parent Alphabet likely saw a need to readjust the company in order to drive profitability.

“I applaud their position of looking at this and saying this is meant to be a for profit business and we need to retool this to be able to establish how do we best fulfill that mission," Beranek said.