Google Fiber started back in 2012 with a measure of ambition. The service was meant to have 5 million subscribers by the time it was five years old. However, details now emerging suggest that by the end of 2014, the number of subscribers was as low 200,000. While the move to wireless that seems to be in the service's future will certainly help with cost and spread, hopefully garnering more subscribers, it's clear that the service has not lived up to expectations. Being the head of a more practical company in Alphabet, CEO Larry Page contacted Fiber head Craig Barratt recently to advise that Barratt would have to free up half of his people for other projects.
If current reports are to be believed, wireless-based Fiber is close to ready to deploy, and will likely be faster, easier, and far cheaper than the landline-based option that the Fiber team has thus far employed. This means that knocking off a few engineers and installers won't be quite as crushing of a blow as it could have been, but losing half of his team will still make life a bit more difficult for Barratt as more people in more areas clamor for Fiber to come to them, and the service still grapples with a far from ideal number of subscribers. The division will reportedly be reduced from around 1,000 staff to about 500. While this is still a decent number of people, this could make it a bit tougher to roll out as fast as Barratt and his team would like in new areas.
The low subscriber turnout isn't just because of Fiber's current lack of coverage, of course. Local elements have been stepping up their game to keep users from jumping ship, either preemptively or once Fiber comes to town. Their offers can be cheaper than Fiber, offer more features, and otherwise be specifically intended to lure would-be Fiber signups. Thus, their subscriber base so far has mainly consisted of Google diehards, those looking forward to the service, those with few other options in their area, and those whose local companies refuse to concede or engage Fiber in a price war.