This article was published on July 24, 2016

Google Fiber may never come to Portland (and it’s Google’s fault)

Google Fiber may never come to Portland (and it’s Google’s fault)
Nate Swanner
Story by

Nate Swanner

Former Reporter, TNW

TNW's former West Coast writer in the PNW (Portland, Oregon). Nate loves amplifying developers, and codes in Swift when he's not writing. If TNW's former West Coast writer in the PNW (Portland, Oregon). Nate loves amplifying developers, and codes in Swift when he's not writing. If you need to get in touch, Twitter is your best bet.

Google Fiber has hit a few roadblocks on its way to Portland, Oregon. Now, a source tells us that Google may not be as serious as many want them to be about bringing Fiber to the city and outlying areas.

Google Fiber and Oregon

When Google announced it was looking for a way to bring Fiber to Portland, many rejoiced (myself included). As we saw in Kansas City, Fiber has a way of boosting the economy as well as bring insanely fast internet to the citizens.

But Oregon was still rough terrain for such a plan, and has bent over backwards to get Fiber. Laws have changed. Tax breaks will be awarded, and Fiber is no longer being entertained as something that will service the entire city, much less the outlying areas Google promised.

Google is reticent to break ground, and it may have everything to do with Portland.


A source familiar with Google’s Fiber plans tells me the company has been slow to respond to the city of Portland on various matters, many of which relate to the actual build-out of Fiber throughout Portland and its surrounding areas.

As was the case in Kansas City (and other Fiber cities), Portland will be divided into Fiberhoods. Residents of those Fiberhoods sign up for Fiber, and the Fiberhoods with the most sign-ups are prioritized over others.

Portland is a city comprised of several official (and unofficial) neighborhoods, and Google’s plans may clash with them. Our source says Google is trying to plan its Fiberhoods based on its proposed buildout rather than the existing culture of the city.


The City of Portland has informed Google of this issue, our source says. It’s a conflict of culture it seems disinterested in dealing with.

Google and Portland are also being met with resistance from citizens on Fiber huts, which are physical buildings that serve as maintenance hubs for Fiber in a neighborhood. According to Google, they serve “no more than 12,000 households.”

Huts are also fairly large — as you can see in the picture above — and require quite a bit of land.

Neighbors are already complaining that Fiber huts will be “eyesores,” and ruin the character of some neighborhoods.


Google may be tiring of Portland

Though the state of Oregon has lined up the dominoes for Google, it’s still refusing to knock them down and roll Fiber out to the city.

Cost of a buildout in Portland would hover around $300 million, according to city estimates. The Oregonian reports that Google simply leases fiberoptic cable in cities where it can, when it can.

Portland is seeing a surge of high-speed internet offerings from Comcast, CenturyLink and others, but it’s not clear how much fiberoptic cable is laced throughout the city. It’s possible Google will simply try to lease as much as they can — and could be reason for the delay of Fiber.

Our source says Google is “definitely” dragging its heels on beginning the process to bring Fiber to Portland. The city is at its mercy, and doesn’t seem to have been met with much diligence on Google’s part.

Google Fiber map US
Credit: Google

Fiber may never come

When Google announced it was exploring the possibility of bringing gigabit internet to Portland, Fiber general manager Kevin Lo cryptically said “It’s entirely possible we won’t be able to bring Google Fiber to the Portland area.”

Portland mayor Charlie Hales proclaimed “I’m very confident in our side of the partnership being able to perform.”

So far, it’s all gone according to hoyle.

Our source says Fiber for Portland was always going to take a while, but there are no more real obstacles so far as the city of Portland is concerned. At this point, it’s Google that avoids putting shovels in the ground and sign-up forms in mailboxes.

As for those Fiberhoods — our source says they haven’t even been decided yet, nor have all of the locations for Fiber huts. When it comes to build-out, that’s phase one; if Google’s not there yet, that’s a problem for Portland.

Though Portland was announced as a potential Fiber city in 2014, it has yet to move beyond the ‘potential’ pool of candidates. Other cities announced as ‘potential’ candidates for Fiber alongside Portland — like Atlanta, Georgia and Nashville, Tennessee — have leapfrogged Portland and are listed as ‘current’ Fiber cities.

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