Google Fiber realigns San Antonio FTTH rollout strategy, but new coverage plans are unclear

Google Fiber pole attachment screencap

Google Fiber is implementing a fiber installation process in San Antonio it hopes won’t upset local residents along with methods to reduce network build-out costs.

The emerging FTTH provider, according to a San Antonio Business Journal report, wants to be more responsive to the Texas community’s concerns.

"They want Google Fiber, but they also want it deployed with a minimum of disruption," Google Fiber wrote in a statement. "We agree. Across all our markets, we are focused on innovating new deployment techniques that are faster, more efficient and less disruptive."

RELATED: Google Fiber says microtrenching accelerates fiber installation, minimizes community disruption

The first thing on Google Fiber’s list is to remove a fiber hut that it initially constructed inside a pocket recreational area at the city’s Haskin Park. As part of the revised plan, the service provider plans to replace the hut, which holds its network cables, with a smaller utility cabinet.

Microtrenching shows promise

Additionally, Google Fiber is examining how it can use microtrenching, a method that allows Google Fiber and other providers to carve shallow grooves in the ground to deploy fiber. 

Using construction equipment from Ditch Witch or Vermeer, the microtrencher has a blade that makes a narrow cut between the road and the curb. Another machine is then used to vacuum the dirt.

What’s compelling about microtrenching is that it is less disruptive than traditional methods of burying fiber by digging up streets or lawns.

Although traditional electric utilities and other telecom companies like AT&T have been using some form of microtrenching for more than a decade, San Antonio did not have rules in place that allowed it to be used in the city. In 2016, San Antonio city officials developed a pilot program for Google Fiber.

Google Fiber has used microtrenching in Austin, where it has laid over 300 miles of fiber cable.

Under one of its proposals, Google Fiber called to build the remaining network with less than 17 fiber huts. However, it was unclear how the service provider would be able to provide the same level of coverage via a scaled-back network plan.

Heeding resident concerns

Google Fiber was forced to halt new construction in San Antonio following growing concerns from city residents.

In 2014, the city coordinated a master lease agreement that allowed Google Fiber to not have to obtain a permit for every one of its fiber huts. However, a number of residents said the city did not allow them to provide enough input on how Google Fiber was carrying out their network build.

"This isn't about fiber or internet speeds but the rule of law and the city enforcing our laws in a nondiscriminatory manner [so] the taxpayer is not underwriting private business," said John Whitsett, an active member of local community groups, to the San Antonio Journal.

Outside of San Antonio, Google Fiber has run into issues in other markets like Kansas City where local reports revealed it has canceled some of its planned build-outs. However, the company has said that it remains active in Kansas City as well as in Nashville and Louisville.

The service provider's realigned strategy in Kansas City and San Antonio come as Google Fiber's parent Alphabet realigns the division's strategy. Earlier this month, Alphabet announced Milo Medin, a VP at Access, and Dennis Kish, president of Google Fiber, were being reassigned to other roles in the parent company.