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The Dream Of Google Fiber In Chicago Just Got Derailed

By Stephen Gossett in News on Oct 26, 2016 3:53PM

Google Headquarters / Getty Images / Photo: Justin Sullivan

Google’s much-coveted, super-high-speed broadband service, Fiber, won’t be setting internet speeds ablaze in Chicago anytime soon. Google Fiber CEO Craig Barrett announced his resignation on Tuesday and, with it, a major dialing back of Fiber’s planned development and a “pause” of operations in possible Fiber locations, including Chicago.

“For most of our “potential Fiber cities” — those where we’ve been in exploratory discussions — we’re going to pause our operations and offices while we refine our approaches,” Barrett said in a blog post. “We’re ever grateful to these cities for their ongoing partnership and patience, and we’re confident we’ll have an opportunity to resume our partnership discussions once we’ve advanced our technologies and solutions.”

Bloomberg reports that “about 9 percent of staff is being let go, according to a person familiar with the situation,” which translates to 130-plus job losses.

Some industry watchers expect Google to purse cheaper, possibly hybrid styles of broadband service.

“Installation was far too time consuming and expensive," Kamalini Ganguly, an analyst at IT consultancy Ovum, told the BBC. "Fibre is the most expensive option when it comes to mainstream broadband access technology. I think in the future we may see Google use a wireless solution that doesn't take fibre all the way to the home. We'll see a combination of technologies."

In Chicago—and a handful of other “paused” cities—it appears that one of those technologies will continue to be Webpass, a high-speed wireless ISP that Google acquired earlier in October.

“The (blog) post suggests a greater focus on technology and deployment methods, implying a shift toward wireless,” Stifel analyst Noelle Dilts told Fortune.

Google seemed to confirm that such a shift is indeed the tech giant’s plan of action. "In Chicago, Google Fiber and Webpass will work together to extend and accelerate deployments via point-to-point wireless. This is great news for residents who can’t wait to get Internet speeds up to a Gigabit, even sooner," a Google Fiber spokesperson wrote in a statement to Chicagoist.

Translation: don't expect those Flash-like speeds of 1000 megabits-per-second in Chicago anytime soon because building infrastructures of fiber-optic cable is really damn expensive, even for technology behemoths.