Fiber optics. Photo by Flickr user Tony Webster.
Fiber optics. Photo by Flickr user Tony Webster.

At least three job postings have popped up online for Google Fiber operations and management in San Antonio. Now don’t get too excited, the jobs come with a caveat:

“Not all cities where we’re exploring hiring a team will necessarily become Google Fiber cities. If you’re hired and your city doesn’t become a Google Fiber city, you will continue to play a role in an existing Fiber city or Google headquarters. Due to the dynamic nature of local government, utilities, and organizations, we’re looking for flexible, senior leaders.”

The positions for Google Fiber “city manager,” “outside plant quality assurance manager,” and “outside plant engineering manager” were posted on May 21, June 25, and June 30 respectively. Only the city manager position, which would lead the local team, carries the notice of the position(s) tentative nature.

“We haven’t made a final decision about bringing Google Fiber to San Antonio,” a Google spokesperson said. “But when we do decide, we want to be able to hit the ground running, so we’re starting to look for candidates who could help lead our team in each metro area.”

Similar positions are open in other cities that Google is considering expanding its high-speed Internet service.

The latter two more technical positions seem to carry more logistical responsibilities. Past the industry jargon, it seems Google Fiber wants a team on the ground to further explore the possibility of bringing its advanced fiber optic broadband lines – which would provide Internet speeds of roughly one gigabit per second, about 100 times faster than typical broadband to San Antonian customers.

Combined with the recent filings of permitting paperworks by engineering firms working for Google, as first reported by the Express-News, the prospect of San Antonio becoming a Google Fiber city looks promising.

“But it’s not time to load the confetti yet,” said Councilmember Ron Nirenberg (D8). “(Google’s) M.O. has been extremely cautious.”

In statements and announcements, Google representatives keep their cards fairly close to their chests:

“San Antonio has been great to work with as we’ve explored bringing Google Fiber to the city, and filing this permit is an important next step,” a Google spokesperson stated in an email. “There’s still a lot of work to do, but we hope to provide an update about whether we can bring Fiber to San Antonio soon.”

The Fiber Race

Google fiber cities; established, upcoming, and potential.
Google fiber cities; established, upcoming, and potential.

Google Fiber has established service in some neighborhoods in Austin, Kansas City, and Provo, Utah and announced a second round of cities – Salt Lake City, Nashville, Atlanta, Charlotte, and Raleigh-Durham – earlier this year. Google’s aggressive expansion into the Internet service providing business was seen by many as a challenge to traditional broadband providers like AT&T, which announced its intention to build a 1-gigabit network in Austin just weeks after Google announced its own. AT&T’s GigaPower had its Texas launch in October 2014 and serves thousands of customers. Google Fiber in Austin, however, is available to only a few neighborhoods, called “fiberhoods” after its launch in January 2015.

San Antonio was considered for Google Fiber last year, but was ultimately passed over and joined Portland, San Jose, and Phoenix on the “potential Fiber city” list. AT&T has confirmed plans to bring GigaPower to San Antonio, soon after Google said it was considering the Alamo City. The advantage AT&T has is the existing infrastructure to reach hundreds of thousands of customers already using its existing U-Verse Internet service.

GigaPower map ATT

The advantage of the “fiber race” for customers is competition. AT&T customers that live in cities without Google Fiber pay more per month than customers that have chosen GigaPower over Google Fiber. Typically, customers in cities with both services, like Austin, pay about $70 for gigabit Internet from either company.

In Dallas, where there is no existing or planned Google Fiber network, pricing started at $90 for the up-to-100-megabit Internet service and $110 a month for up-to-1-gigabit Internet service.

Many said that the sheer size of San Antonio was one of the main sticking points for Google.

“We have an extremely large city that creates infrastructure challenges for anything – whether its sidewalks or technology,” Nirenberg said.

San Antonio is well known for its sprawl, a feature often highlighted by infrastructure and technology discussions.

“There are a number of factors that can influence when we can move forward with building a fiber network in a city; examples include things like the ability to use existing infrastructure (e.g. attaching to local utility poles) and the topography of an area,” the Google spokesperson stated. “Each area has unique considerations at the city and state level — all of those factors can affect how quickly we move through the planning process, and whether we decide to bring Google Fiber to a city.”

According to the Express-News, a 33-page document filed with the City of San Antonio reveals Byers Engineering Co.’s plan for how Ervin Cable Construction Co. could install the Google Fiber network in a small section of a neighborhood on the northwest side between loops 1604 and 410. The plans don’t say either way if the Great Northwest neighborhood will indeed be ground zero for Fiber.

This story was originally published on Thursday, July 9. 

*Featured/top image: Fiber optics. Photo by Flickr user Tony Webster.

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Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and mental health. She was the San Antonio Report's...