Google to secretly test wireless internet delivery in Silicon Valley cities where Google Fiber is delayed

Google’s plans to deliver fiber-based ultrahigh-speed internet in Mountain View, Palo Alto and San Jose have been put on hold — and now the firm plans to test its wireless alternative in those cities.

The testing project is so secret that Google has limited employee involvement  to “only those on a ‘need-to-know’ basis,” and made any third parties involved sign “robust nondisclosure agreements,” according to a filing with the Federal Communications Commission.

If Google can start delivering superfast internet through the air instead of via cables, it will circumvent obstacles thrown up by competitors, and the company would stand to reap massive savings. In San Jose alone, installing fiber would take three years and cost $1 billion, the company has told city officials.

On Tuesday, the Mercury News reported that Google Fiber had been delayed in at least those three locations. A source familiar with the matter said Google had put the fiber plans on hold to pursue a point-to-point solution enabled by wireless technology it acquired after buying an internet company called Webpass in June.

Now, the FCC has released a filing from Google that describes a nationwide testing program for wireless broadband internet delivery.  On the list for initial testing are the three Silicon Valley cities where fiber is confirmed to be delayed, along with San Francisco, where Google has said it plans to install limited Fiber; San Bruno; and Atwater, a Central Valley city where the company tests self-driving cars and its “Project Loon” experimental balloon-delivered-internet service.

Google wants to test the wireless broadband technology at up to 24 sites across the U.S.

The filing requests redactions in the company’s application for testing, and emphasizes that the information it wants to conceal has “significant commercial value.”

According to the person who spoke to the Mercury News about the Google Fiber delays, the fiber project is on hold in all U.S. locations except where it’s up and running or where it can get access to existing fiber infrastructure, such as in San Francisco. Google Fiber is operational in seven U.S. cities, all outside California.

Google has been fighting competitors such as AT&T and Comcast over access to utility poles for hanging fiber cables. And installing cable underground is expensive, disruptive to communities, and in many areas impossible. Wireless ultrafast internet delivery would let the company make an end run around the opposition while slashing infrastructure costs.

As might be imagined considering Google’s secrecy around the project, the FCC filing is short on details about the testing. It refers to “base stations” transmitting to “end user devices.” Google employees and contractors will operate the end user devices, as will unpaid volunteer “trusted testers,” according to the filing. No commercial operations will be conducted via the testing, the filing said.


Photo: Google’s logo near the Googleplex in Mountain View (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)









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  • rick jones

    I would think that if this wireless solution is supposed to “scale” it would have to be point-to-point, which then likely means line-of-sight. Not dissimilar perhaps to the wireless broadband we used to see around here ten (?) or so years ago with those little square antennae tilted onto a corner on the top of a mast on peoples’ roofs.

    As someone in a one story home, surrounded on three sides by two story homes and with a very nice, large tree in the front yard, fibre sounds much more appealing than line-of-sight wireless.

    And besides, perhaps like the proverbial station wagon loaded with tapes, never underestimate the bandwidth of a bundle of fibres.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      It would be interesting to see if they are going to use P2P microwave links for the big pipe, which is an old idea that has been used for high-speed internet in out-of-the-way places. As you said, it has to be line of sight, so will be interesting to see how they figure out the wireless-to-the-curb part, as it were.

      • Dad

        yes, radio wifi is what i heard too

  • Sandra Hayden

    Sounds like a better solution than excavating for fiber everywhere.

    • Kin Deli

      not when you consider the absolute ease of interception compared to fiber…

  • FresnoUser

    Fresno, Ca is ready to be a test site.

  • Dave

    Last I heard the jury was still out on whether radiation from wifi was safe but I guess that’s not important enough to stop large corporations from blanketing whole cities involuntarily with much much more. If Fremont is a test site its only because Facebook already staked its claim in San Jose with its telegraph “super fast” wireless. Hundreds of thousands of people have yet to realize that they are being given up as lab rats, what fun?

    • Bob Richards

      You are correct if by “jury was still out” you mean that there’s no evidence that WiFi is NOT safe but some people (among them those who don’t think the US landed a man on the moon, that 9/11 was staged by our government, and that global warming is not a real phenomena) still think, without any evidence, that WiFi is dangerous.

      Of course the same applies to consuming clean H2O or lifting your arm above your head or looking at a rose.

      Anyway, even if WiFi is dangerous to humans, it shouldn’t bother anyone who cares as they already have built a Faraday cage around their home to escape evil emissions from cell phone towers, radio stations, police radios, television stations and that cage should protect them from the WiFi as well.

      • Furthermore

        This kind of microwave radiation has known to be extremely dangerous for years. The jury is not out and has not been out for years!! Here is a recent interview from a guy who did early research for Monsanto in the 1990’s and was told to never publish the results. He is Dr. Jerry L. Phillips, currently a biochemist at Univerity of Colorado. At that time he found the same Cancer’s in rats that we see currently in humans.

  • Furthermore

    Jerry L. Phillips, PHD, Director, Science Learning Center, University of Colorado

    “It is indisputable that exposure to radiofrequency radiation at cell telephone frequencies produces biological changes that are consistent with potential adverse effects on human health and development. Moreover, these biological effects are consistent with recent epidemiological studies of long-term cell phone users that have shown increased risks for tumor development. What should be a major concern for scientists and non-scientists alike is industry’s misleading and scientifically inaccurate use of available data. Industry’s claims of studies negating one another, their misuse of ‘weight of evidence,’ and their overt support of studies designed to produce negative data, all in the name of increasing the profit line, are shameful and should not be tolerated.”