In the time working with all the various contractors and subcontractors for Google, we’ve learned a few things about the setup. The first is that no one works at Google, or seemingly no one: Google contracts a local company to run all the cables in the ground, something that was done last year (for our part of the city). Google then sends its own representative (or one branded as a Google representative, anyway) to the house or office to install the NIU, or Network Interface Unit, on the side of the building. This typically would be installed alongside existing cable units (TWC), power meters, and the like. After this point, Google dispatches another Google-branded, third-party representative (e.g. from Onepath) to the house or office, carrying a router and, presumably, “Fiber Jack” with them. This is the final installation step.
It was step 2 where Google lost its footing with us: No one asked us where to install the NIU, and rather than mount it alongside all the others (on the right side of the building), the contractors mounted the NIU on the left side, as it was easier for them, then suggested that we drill holes through brick walls in the crawlspace to route a 200-foot fiber optic patch cable to the correct side of the house. Sadly, there was a brief moment where we considered this idea, and it was out of fear of what’s happened over the last few months. Maybe it would have been worth it, despite being the exact wrong way to do things.
Ultimately, we decided to do things right: Move the NIU to the correct side of the building (next to all the other cable/internet boxes) so that we could hook it up to ethernet without running hundreds of feet of patch cables through holes drilled in brick foundational walls and crawlspaces.
This process required the street installation contractors (third-party) to come back out, which took a few weeks, so that they could route the fiber optic cable appropriately. After this, we needed the Google technician – or Google-branded third-party technician – to come back out with a router and Fiber Jack.
That’s the part that never happened. We were told that Google would get in contact with us about scheduling a new appointment, but alas, we were forgotten.
We waited. And waited. We were told that Google would contact us when availability arose.
Google Fiber's "Free Month"
January 3, 2018, Google did contact us – in the form of an invoice for the “first month” of Google Fiber, also notifying us that the alleged “free first month” had been used. This was probably burned during the process of the back-and-forth failure of Google to install its own service. On signup, Google claims that you get a free 30-day credit. That credit, in our experience, is actually bullshit – it’s used in the period where you have no service, and while technicians are still setting everything up, drilling holes in the street, and suggesting that we drill holes through brick rather than install a box on the correct side of the building. It’s a marketing scheme, and it’s no better than what existing ISPs do. That’s what the credit is for: Google’s setup time. Sadly, if it meant all of this would have been done in November, we would have gladly forgone the credit, and even would have paid for some of those installation fees – credit be damned, just tell us what it costs and get it installed. Time is too valuable to waste on acting the liaison between Google’s innumerable contractors and subcontractors. We have business to do. Just tell us what it costs to get this stuff done right the first time.
But when a credit is promised, it’d be optimal if said credit were of a non-bullshit nature.
Regardless, after disputing the charge and receiving a refund, Google’s phone representatives told us that they could not schedule a technician to go to the house, as the house “already has Fiber service.” This was false, something the rep acknowledged, but whatever dispatch and software solution Google is using was bugged into a state of thinking we already had service. There was, seemingly, no easy way around this, and after a long time stuck on hold, we asked the representative if the self-install kit had everything we needed. It did. We can install routers, so we asked for the self-install kit, and told them to cancel the request for a technician.
The kit arrived just before CES. It did not include everything we needed.
We were still missing the “Fiber Jack,” something that Google says only its technicians could install – the same ones we were unable to book to come to the property after the first failed visit (in November).
Google, Deity of Light
Our next call to support required some tongue-biting through insufferable condescension: We had to listen to the NIU be referred to as “fancyfancy techspeak,” as if it’s beyond our mortal comprehension what such a magical box, bestowed upon us by God-Emperor Google, Demi-God of Light, and its Third-Party Thaumaturge, could possibly do to “make internet go.” We then gritted teeth through references of “lamesauce” and “sadface,” upon the Google representative hearing our complaints and, although no emojis were verbally spoke, we felt them through the line.
After begging momentarily to be struck by lightning, in a bout of fiber optic irony, and put out of the misery that was “fancyfancy tech speak,” we finally got a service technician scheduled. The representative was scheduled for 9:50AM. To be fair to Google, this time, it wasn’t necessarily the company’s fault that no one showed up – it snowed the night before, and the 0.1” of snow still on the road could be ice in other parts of the city. It’s reasonable for Google – or rather, one of their subcontracted companies – to cancel.
What isn’t reasonable, however, is that we received no word of this cancelation until after the scheduled meeting time. Some warning would have been nice. But it’s not like anyone else has things to do, so we can just sit around waiting indefinitely. It’s no trouble, really. Take your time, oh God of Light.
We’ve been rescheduled, again, and we’ve theoretically received a refund for the service charges (during which period we’ve had no service). We probably won’t ever see that month of “free” service, but that’s OK. At this point, we’d pay just to end it all – we’d pay to go back and undo what has been wrought by this wish for faster internet. We’d just like this significant waste of time to end. This is the last chance for Fiber, for now; if we can’t get it working at the next scheduled appointment, we’re canceling and returning to the warm, parasitic malignancy that is TimeWarner’s internet. Or Spectrum – whatever they’re called. Point is, they’re awful, but at least they enable us to use their awful service.
And it requires neither “fancyfancy techspeak” nor verbal sadfaces.
This speaks to the logistical needs of an ISP, and perhaps reinforces why Google abandoned the ISP business in new markets. We hate our current service providers – both options – and have a long-standing history of explaining why. TimeWarner and AT&T are both woefully incompetent and of slow uplink, and we were hopeful that fresh-faced Google could institute change. At least with the known internet overlords, we understand exactly what we’re getting: It might be “sometime between 8AM and 6PM” that the technicians show up, but damn it, they will show up, and the services will be installed, and they will bill you as soon as they can. The service sucks, but it’s reliable in its suckitude, and it does actually work. We’ve only had a few outages over the last 5 years, and we never need to talk to the companies providing the service. It’s installed, then they’re out of your life forever – by design, TWC & AT&T want as little to do with supporting you as possible. That’s fine, really, because we want the same. You suck, TimeWarner, but at least you leave us alone to bask in the glow of your legally-required minimum upload speeds.
It’s not a great model, admittedly, but at least it’s not frustrating, inconvenient, and we have internet. It’s a good thing we never canceled our service before that first Google appointment, because we would have had to immediately get TWC or AT&T back out to install a stop-gap solution. But they’d be here, and it’d be done. The grinding teeth of the evil machines will carry on turning.
Perhaps Google Has Enough
As we’ve had more time to reflect on Google’s service, we’ve become increasingly skeptical of it. Google controls our lives. Google controls the search engine that is sending traffic to this very article. Google controls the video playback service that governs most of our revenue. We now ask ourselves: Does Google really need to provide our internet, too?
Unfortunately, the answer to that is “probably,” for now, at least. Google offers gigabit upload speeds. We upload terabytes of files to remote backup services yearly, we upload terabytes of video content to YouTube, we download software and games for benchmarking. If business must grow, internet speeds must grow.
But perhaps it’s time to consider re-upping with TimeWarner. Or Spectrum–whatever.
We’ll give Google one more shot at this, but we’re keeping our existing service with the known-evil Internet provider active. It will be some time until trust in Google exists enough to ditch what has reliably siphoned our blood for the last 5+ years, granting meek-yet-accessible internet in that time.
- Steve Burke