Mutiny in Texas: Thanks, Google Fiber

It seems some people are regretting the emergence of the high-speed broadband in the county.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer on

All may not be well in Austin, Texas, as residents deal with the consequences of infrastructure upheaval caused by Internet Service Providers -- with Google named as a top culprit in city complaints.

When you think of Google Fiber, what first comes to mind is the insane speeds the broadband offers, which is touted as up to 100 times faster than most broadband speeds offered by ISPs today across the United States.

With speeds of up to 1GB/s, the speed at which users can stream movies or download content including television shows, music and films is outmatched.

Google recently revealed plans to launch the network in Huntsville, Alabama, but not all may be well in the original pilot area of Austin, Texas.

According to the Austin American Statesman, residents of Austin lodged 363 complaints against ISPs which were causing a nuisance through the construction and installation of network infrastructure.

Overwhelmingly, Google Fiber and contractors hired to install the fiber-optic cables -- which are necessary to support high speeds, rather than traditional copper cabling -- came at the top of complaints, with a total of 254 levied against the firm.

The complaints include construction eyesores, flooding due to blocked storm drains, home, landscape and lawn damage, as well as trespass and a lack of respect for private property and driveways by contracted drivers.

On Lambs Lane in Southeast Austin, for example, the publication says merely mentioning Google Fiber "can set neighbors off into a firestorm of anger, frustration and even tears." The publication says the quiet street has been transformed into "an orange nightmare," full to the brim with contractors who are dealing with $760,000 worth of damage caused by flooding in October, as well as work by Google Fiber staff which has carried on for months.

Parisa Fatehi-Weeks, Google Fiber's community impact manager told the statesman:

"Google Fiber's top priority is being a good neighbor. If Austinites are experiencing issues, we want to hear from them.

Our construction hotline is open 24/7, and we welcome questions, concerns and invitations to neighborhood meetings and events. We want to help as much as we can."

AT&T and Time Warner also received a combined total of 100 complaints, due to efforts to ramp up their own networks to compete with Google.

Not every area due to receive Google Fiber will experience heavy rates of construction. Huntsville, for example, will be selling or leasing existing city networks rather than requiring the tech giant to lay down its own full cable networks, as reported by The Register.

Austin, Texas was the third US city to secure the high-speed network, behind Kansas City, Missouri and Provo, Utah. It may be that within these early stages, Google and city officials can learn some valuable lessons from what some residents are reportedly suffering. A hotline may not be enough, and city officials cannot simply pass over the buck.

It may be a more sensible option to set up a department which brings together both Fiber experts and local government officials to tackle the problems associated with the building of network infrastructure and connection, and to give residents a louder voice when their lives are disrupted.

ZDNet has reached out to Google and will update if we hear back.

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