Duluth dodged Google’s fiber optic bullet

Remember that campaign in Duluth six years ago to convince Google to select Duluth as a city to test out a high-speed fiber-optic broadband network?

Duluth even promised to name every first born male Google Fiber and every first born female Googlette Fiber if the company selected the city.

Alas, Kansas City, Kan., got the Google love, leaving Duluth in the high-speed backwater of Lake Superior.

Perhaps it’s just as well.

The ambitious plan to wire America with high-speed service is over.

The Wall St. Journal reports that the test in several cities has resulted in what just about anyone could have told Google, and now its spin-off Alphabet: It’s too expensive.

Instead the company will explore using wireless systems. But the Journal suggests that the grand scheme all along may not have been what was pitched to cities like Duluth.

The new strategies are in response to the headaches of building a fiber network. In Kansas City, homeowners complained about destroyed lawns and ruptured gas lines. In Nashville, Tenn., and Louisville, Ky., competing telecom firms are blocking the company from stringing fiber on their utility poles.

Some analysts have long suspected that Alphabet’s primary goal was to prod other broadband firms to increase their speeds. AT&T, Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable, which recently was acquired by Charter Communications Inc., have done so in some competing markets.

In San Antonio, for example, neighbors say the Google Fiber project has ruined a neighborhood park.

Hiawatha Bray, at the Boston Globe, says he’s been wondering what Google’s bosses were thinking when they launched the effort in 2010.

Then it came to me: They launched Google Fiber mainly because it was cool. There’s a lot of that going on at Google, a company with enough billions in the bank to take the occasional flyer—four-legged robots, for instance, or educated thermostats. But lately the company’s been backing away from some of its high-stakes investments, in a manner that suggests it’s starting to balk at the high price of cool tech.

Duluth still doesn’t have a fancy system for high-speed Internet. But there’s good news. There are no kids running around there named Google Fiber.