Emails provide insight on Google Fiber recruitment

12 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Charlotte aims for digital inclusion in Google Fiber project.

In a past job in Kansas City, Julie Porter was part of an intense, door-to-door campaign to get residents in economically challenged, mostly minority neighborhoods to sign up for Google’s high-speed Internet service. (Bloomberg) — Google Inc.’s foray into high-speed Internet and TV-service has signed up an “incredibly small” number of customers and isn’t a threat to cable and satellite investors, according to MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett.Through a public records request, the Observer obtained emails city officials exchanged as they were working to land Google Fiber for Charlotte, starting in February 2014.

Google Fiber is stirring fear among incumbent telcos and cable operators, but the provider has yet to make a big dent, at least with respect to video, in the early going, according to new subscriber data uncovered by MoffetNathanson. Here are some highlights: In April 2014, Phil Reiger, a Charlotte official spearheading the Google Fiber project for the city, asked a Google representative a question he had been hearing from many in the Charlotte community: Did the company plan to expand beyond the city limits? Community leaders have been holding meetings on the topic for months, and a Queens University of Charlotte conference will highlight the issue next week. The Google representative, Ashley Kroh, said the company was only focusing on the 34 cities on its shortlist. “It is too soon to begin discussions on expansion,” she said.

In January, Google announced that Charlotte was one of four metro areas chosen to next receive Google Fiber, which the technology giant says is 100 times faster than regular broadband. Moffett thinks those numbers are “incredibly small” and “a testament to how hard, and how slow, it is to build scale” as a new pay TV distributor.

Do you agree?” In June 2014, the leader of a Charlotte nonprofit that promotes entrepreneurship contacted Stovall to see if the city could provide one of its free rentals of the Charlotte Knights’ baseball stadium for a concert promoting Google Fiber. The flip side, via yours truly: Google doesn’t really want to be in the pay TV delivery service — it’s selling video as an adjunct to the thing it really cares about, which is super-fast broadband. City officials provided information about the rentals, but the concert never took place. “We may wait until we’re closer to a ‘go live’ date for Google Fiber to do something like that,” Cox told the Observer. But Google, said Reiger, has made a commitment to construct a fiber network that covers all of Charlotte – with the availability of connections based on the company’s demand-based selection process.

While Google Fiber’s actual impact, attaining an 11 percent share of the Kansas City pay-TV market, has been small, the political gains have been meaningful, Moffett said. That’s because when it comes to pay TV services, most people have multiple options — one or more cable TV providers, a couple satellite TV options, and sometimes pay TV via a telco operator. In 2012, when Google installed fiber in its first location – Kansas City, Kansas and Missouri – the company’s approach for selecting neighborhoods drew criticism. As the deadline approached for neighborhoods to meet registration requirements, higher-income white neighborhoods were meeting the threshold, while lower-income, primarily black neighborhoods were not. In Charlotte, “I think it will still be a challenge,” she said, “but at least we’re prepared for it.” Google said it can’t say for certain how the process will work in Charlotte, but in Austin, Texas, where construction is currently under way, the company is signing up fiberhoods in waves, instead of the whole city at once.

Credit or debit cards are required. “This is a complex problem that won’t be solved overnight, but in every city where we bring Google Fiber, we’re working with local partners and investing in solutions that address the unique needs of the community,” she said. In Google Fiber cities, the company offers a basic package that has no monthly fee after a connection charge ($300 in Austin), provides free service to community organizations, holds rallies to promote Internet connectivity and supports training programs. It’s reaching out to community leaders, and in the next couple months, someone may be hired to help coordinate the effort, possibly through a public-private partnership, he said. In 2012, the Knight School conducted a survey that found 85 percent of Mecklenburg County adults have used the Internet in the past three months and that most had access to the Internet at home.

The residents with the lowest Internet access included African Americans, Hispanics, adults age 55 or older, adults with incomes under $40,000 and adults in West Charlotte, the study found.

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