A sexy story like the news that Google Fiber may be getting gutted in a massive downsizing effort will get headlines all day long. But there's a problem when that news only comes from off-the-record sources.
Earlier today a report by The Information (subscription required), suggested that Alphabet Inc. is set to cut staff at its Google Fiber Inc. division by half, drawing the employee count down from about 1,000 to roughly 500 people. The report further said that Google Fiber had hoped to attract 5 million customers in its first five years, but that the actual subscriber total today hovers at around only 200,000 after two years.
However, a source with direct knowledge of the situation has now responded to Light Reading about the report by saying these claims of drastic job cuts at Google Fiber are false.
Unfortunately, no official comment from the company has been forthcoming, so our tally of on-the-record sources still stands at precisely zero.
Google Fiber has been criticized for moving slowly with new market deployments, but it's been difficult to find reliable data on the company's actual Internet subscriber numbers. Earlier this year, the U.S. Copyright Office reported that Google Fiber had only 53,390 video subs at the end of 2015. Although not representative of broadband customers, that report may have been an indicator of overall low adoption. (See Gigabites: In TV, 15 Google Fibers Make One Mediacom.)
In a more recent twist to the saga, Google Fiber has notably postponed some of its planned gigabit rollouts, including deployments scheduled for Portland and Silicon Valley. The theory there is that the company is investigating wireless technology as a possible alternative to its fiber-to-the-home Internet strategy. (See Google Looks to Test 3.5GHz Broadband Radios and Gigabites: Anchor Institutions Aim High.)
Google Fiber has been steadfast in maintaining that it is committed to the Internet service provider market despite its measured pace. The company also has the luxury of moving as slowly as it chooses given the deep pockets of its parent company.
In the end, the success or failure of Google Fiber will have to be judged through a longer lens. In the short term, any analysis is mostly guesswork.
— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading