Google Fiber Puts Plan for Tampa, Fla.’s High-Speed Internet on Hold

The tech giant is reconsidering how to provide the service after initial rollouts proved more expensive and time-consuming than anticipated.

by Jerome R. Stockfisch, Tampa Bay Times / August 17, 2016

(TNS) — TAMPA — Google Fiber's decision to target Tampa as a city to install its coveted high-speed internet service had the town abuzz when it was announced in October.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn and local economic development officials hailed the gigabit-per-second offering, roughly 30 times faster than the U.S. average, as potentially boosting the area's attractiveness to tech companies, entrepreneurs and millennial talent.

Now, Google's high-speed internet business is on hold.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that Google is reconsidering how to provide the service after initial rollouts proved more expensive and time-consuming than anticipated.

"We're continuing to work with city leaders to explore the possibility of bringing Google Fiber to Tampa," Google said in a statement emailed to the Tampa Bay Times. "This means deploying the latest technologies in alignment with our product road map, while understanding local considerations, which takes time."

Tampa is among a handful of U.S. cities being considered for the high-speed service.

Russell Haupert, the city's chief technology officer, said Google is continuing its engineering review in Tampa and is still in the exploratory phase.

The Journal reported that Google is now hoping to use wireless technology to connect homes, rather than cables.

The search-engine giant's ultimate decision on whether to provide the ultra-fast service depends on a review of Tampa's permitting regulations and city and state rules that govern utility providers. Cities are also judged on factors like the ability to use existing infrastructure and the topography of an area.

Tampa also will have to provide sites for "fiber huts," a shelter for communication equipment on city land.

"We're in a holding pattern … but City Council has moved forward with the hut site locations, and we look forward to Google finalizing their exploratory phase in the very near future," said city spokeswoman Ashley Bauman.

The council has approved four hut sites and has another up for consideration next month. That approval would fulfill the city's responsibility for providing the sites, Haupert said.

Brien Bell, Google's regional expansion lead, came to the University of Tampa in October 2015 to announce that the city was among those chosen for further evaluation from 1,000 applicants for the near light-speed service. He said at the time that Google's interest in Tampa was due to its thriving entrepreneurial sector and because the city is working to bring connectivity to its poorest residents.

Kansas City, Mo.; Austin, Texas; Provo, Utah; Nashville; Atlanta; and Charlotte, N.C., were the first cities to receive the high-speed service. Tampa is among 12 cities listed by Google as having the potential to receive the service.

The super-high speed allows users to stream high-definition video content with little to no delays or buffering; improves online experiences for multiple users and devices connected to a network; eliminates disconnects and frozen images during videoconferencing, and cuts times to upload high-quality images to social networks or the cloud from hours or minutes to seconds.

©2016 the Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Fla.), Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.