Google confirms suspension of fibre build as CEO moves on

Google confirms suspension of fibre build as CEO moves on

Google has confirmed the long-held rumour that it is halting its US fibre build, and the head of Google Fiber is stepping aside from the operation, though staying with the group.

Craig Barratt, CEO of Access within the Alphabet group that owns Google, said in a blog post: “This is the right juncture to step aside from my CEO role.”

Reports that Alphabet was having second thoughts about its fibre construction, which started in Kansas City five years ago, began when executive chairman Eric Schmidt told a shareholders’ meeting in June that wireless was now cheaper than “digging up your garden”.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the division is laying off 9% of its workforce and cutting back service plans in 11 cities in the US, citing “a person familiar with the matter”.

Barratt said in his blog post: “Our vision remains: to connect more people to superfast and abundant internet.”

He added: “Thanks to the hard work of everyone on the Access team, our business is solid: our subscriber base and revenue are growing quickly, and we expect that growth to continue.”

He has not specifically referred to wireless alternatives to fibre, but said: “The plan enhances our focus on new technology and deployment methods to make superfast internet more abundant than it is today.”

Earlier this week the Wi-Fi Alliance announced that it had started to certify devices that confirm to the new 801.11ad standard, nicknamed WiGig. This can deliver 8Gbps using 60GHz spectrum.

Edgar Figueroa, president and CEO of the Wi-Fi Alliance, said that Google is looking at WiGig as an alternative to fibre.

Barratt said the Google is “going to pause our operations and offices while we refine our approaches” in cities that the company is still exploring.

“We’re confident we’ll have an opportunity to resume our partnership discussions once we’ve advanced our technologies and solutions. In this handful of cities that are still in an exploratory stage, and in certain related areas of our supporting operations, we’ll be reducing our employee base.”

Barratt said that, though he ceases to be CEO of the Access division, “Larry [Page, CEO of Alphabet] has asked me to continue as an advisor, so I’ll still be around.”

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