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Google Fiber's Slow Start to High-Speed Internet in Austin
High school students develop apps in a University of Missouri–Kansas City program. Kansas City was the first city to receive Google Fiber.";

“We hope to have services to our first customers by the middle of 2014.”

As recently as May 17, this message was posted on the Google Fiber website for Austin, according to the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.

Well, July 2 marked the middle of 2014, and beside the announcement of a new employee, Austinites hungry for the tech giant’s ultra-fast Internet service – first promised in April 2013 – have received nary an update. Except for a vague update to the website, that is: “We hope to have services to our first customers later this year.”

Above: Listen to Joy Diaz's story on Google Fiber's Austin rollout.

Google Fiber is extant in Kansas City and is in the sign-up phase in Provo, Utah, where Google plans to have service active by the end of the year.

Austin was the third city chosen for Google Fiber, but action has been slow and information scarce. Meanwhile, Google is in preliminary talks to bring Fiber to several other cities. This has rubbed some Austin techies the wrong way.

“Considering the growth we’ve seen in tech here in the Silicon Hills, it’s pretty confounding that Google Fiber is finding its way into places like Scottsdale, Arizona and Charlotte, North Carolina,” says Josh Huck, former CEO of Austin ridesharing startup Heyride.“With events like South by Southwest and Austin City Limits that bring people from all over the world, it seems like a missed opportunity for Google to show off the fruits of their labor,” Huck says.

Jenna Wandres, a Google communications associate at the company’s California headquarters, says that building a fiber network is a lot of work.

“These engineers are drafting literally every mile of the network by hand,” she says. “It takes months, sometimes years.”

Wandres went on to say that Google would certainly disclose which neighborhoods would receive Fiber service first by the end of the year, and that they hope to open sign-ups by then as well. In December, the Austin City Council approved recommending 99 public and nonprofit organizations for free Fiber access.

Google Fiber has tried to accommodate scheduling uncertainty from the start. “Unfortunately, the missing detail … is the date when you’ll be able to sign-up,” wrote Mark Strama, head of Google Fiber's Austin operations, in a blog post in November 2013. Strama was unavailable for comment on this article.

In the meantime, other providers have stepped up their Internet services to meet the growing demand for ultra-high speeds. Texas-based Grande Communications offers fiber service in several West Austin neighborhoods.

"When Google made their announcement we knew we needed to act to maintain our position," said Grande president Matt Murphy. "Google's pending entry into the Austin market was a wake-up call." AT&T is also “investing heavily in Austin to install a 100 percent fiber network” in 2014, according to their website.

Texas Standard reporter Joy Diaz has amassed a lengthy and highly recognized body of work in public media reporting. Prior to joining Texas Standard, Joy was a reporter with Austin NPR station KUT on and off since 2005. There, she covered city news and politics, education, healthcare and immigration.
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