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Google Fiber won't be coming to Hillsboro after all

Wall Street Journal reports Google Fiber is killing its Portland expansion, but Washington County cities haven't been told that.

         Google Fiber, we hardly knew ye.

Google Fiber, the ultra-high-speed internet provider that has been toying with a Portland-area expansion since 2014, will not be coming to the Rose City after all, according to The Wall Street Journal.

In an article by the New York newspaper on Monday, Google has suspended its Portland expansion amid a review of its technology.

According to the newspaper, Google is changings its overall strategy, switching from fiber optic cable to wireless technology, dropping several planned expansions in order to focus on the switch.

Google Fiber had never officially said it was coming to the Portland area, but it lists Portland and several suburbs as “future expansions” on its website. In 2014, the company announced that Portland, Hillsboro, Beaverton, Tigard, Lake Oswego and Gresham were in the running to receive fiber optic internet through the company. Google later added the communities of Aloha and Metzger to that list.

The service offers internet speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second — about 100 times faster than traditional broadband — for about the same price Portland-area residents are paying to surf the web today. The company currently offers service in three cities, Provo, Utah, Kansas City, Kan., and Austin, Texas.

On Monday, Portland City Councilor Dan Saltzman’s office confirmed to the Willamette Week newspaper that the city was no longer in the running with Google, but that news had apparently not reached Washington County.

On Monday, Patrick Preston, a spokesman for the city of Hillsboro, said that he was not aware of any change in the Google Fiber negotiations, and said that he could not confirm what The Wall Street Journal reported.

“We have not heard from Google Fiber,” he said. “Only they can confirm what this article reports.”

Julie McCloud, a spokesman for Washington County, said no one from Google had contacted the county, but she said that they had heard rumors that Google was planning to step back from all of its expansions to review its technology.

Hillsboro considered similar plan

The Wall Street Journal said that high costs led the company to change direction.

According to the newspaper, Google is hoping to switch gears from fiber-optic to wireless technology, requiring the company to suspend its projects in Portland and San Jose, Calif., although plans for Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas are still currently in the works and will serve as test centers for the new wireless approach.

The high cost of fiber-optic internet is well-known in Washington County. Last year, the city of Hillsboro announced that it was looking into a plan to build its own high-speed internet for all resident, which it would run as a utility like sewer and water. Those plans were eventually dropped. The $66 million publicly owned fiber-optic internet network was deemed too expensive to move forward.

Many cities in Washington County have had mixed reactions to Google Fiber’s planned Portland expansion. The company has been negotiating with cities for more than a year, but hit roadblocks with Portland's suburbs, which wanted to treat Google Fiber the same way they treat other cable and internet companies. Installation would require digging up roads, and Google was hoping to get easements, right-of-way agreements and expedited permits from the cities in order to install the fiber-optic cables.

Google Fiber also said it only wants to offer the service in select neighborhoods in those cities, which didn’t sit well with some cities.

By Geoff Pursinger
Associate Editor, Hillsboro Tribune
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