Amid ethical criticism, Google drops San Antonio fiber

Google Fiber San Antonio Ethics

SAN ANTONIO — Ethical challenges at City Hall and outdated technology conspired to short-circuit a much-ballyhooed Google Fiber venture in San Antonio.

The company announced Wednesday it was dropping its plans for TV service in the market. The move came after a yearlong controversy that embroiled city officials in ethics complaints.

Violating its own codes and procedures, the city approved the installation of Google Fiber huts in parks and other public property, with bargain leases to the company.

A public-private partnership for the venture, helmed by the city’s chief technology officer Hugh Miller, circumvented the Historic Design Review Commission, which is assigned by municipal ordinance and state law to conduct hearings and review changes.

Miller is married to Shannon Miller, chief of the city agency tasked to review the Google deal. Mrs. Miller never disclosed that fact.

“The city waived rules and committed a team of 12 staff to manage the Google Fiber rollout,” said John Whitsett, a local activist who lodged ethics complaints against the city.

In the meantime, technical challenges and costs were mounting for Google Fiber as its contractors broke dozens of city water lines while digging fiber trenches.

Ultimately, the company decided that advances in wireless capabilities were making cable-style trenching obsolete and cost-prohibitive. With San Antonio’s fast-track approvals generating nothing but bad press, Google cut the cord and its losses.

“We’re not afraid to try new things as part of our normal way of doing business,” Cathy Fogler, Google Fiber’s head of sales and marketing for access, wrote in a blog post.