This blog post is my (not sponsored) writeup of the experience of not getting a Google Fiber internet connection in Salt Lake City. Spoiler: I published this in March 2023 over a Comcast Xfinity connection.
We moved to Salt Lake City in the middle of last year and in January we bought a house here. Salt Lake City is one of the 25 or so cities in the US where Google Fiber internet service is available. It’s impossible not to know about that when you live here. While living at our previous address, we received Google Fiber flyers in the mail almost weekly, saw annoyingly frequent repeats of their Youtube ads, so many online ads, full-page ads in the free local newspaper, billboards, etc.
Amusingly, we received this advertising barrage while living at an address where Google Fiber wasn’t even available. (Doesn’t Google Fiber’s sister company, the one with the same name minus the “Fiber”, specialize in targeted online ads?)
On this day it was all but certain that the house purchase will close on January 4th.
We treated getting an internet connection as a high priority because it would allow us to work-from-home from the new house on days when contractors needed to be let in or deliveries would arrive. We had confirmed that Google Fiber is available at the address before we made the offer on the house. It was the obvious choice: We had only heard positive things about Google Fiber and overwhelmingly negative things about Comcast Xfinity, the only alternative. Plus, we’ve been happy Webpass customers for many years.1
I went to the Google Fiber website, signed up for the $70/month “1 Gig” plan, and scheduled installation for Saturday, January 7th, at 12:30 pm. Immediately after confirming the installation appointment, the website informs me that a crew will dig a “micro trench” from the street to the house at any time between now and the installation date. They will also install a box on the side of the house, I’d later hear them call it NIU (Network Interface Unit) or “network jack”.
Subject: Thanks for signing up for Google Fiber
Thanks for signing up for Google Fiber at 1750 S Oak Springs Dr, Salt Lake City, UT 84108-3314. We’re excited to bring fast, reliable internet to your address!
You scheduled your Google Fiber installation for January 7, 2023 at 12:30 pm. Before your in-home installation appointment, our Google Fiber installation specialist will come out to ensure the Network Interface Unit (NIU) is installed on the side of your home (if you don’t have one already). Learn more.
Seems like an important detail that they will just show up at an unspecified time and dig a “micro trench” through the front yard and attached a thing somewhere on the house exterior. What if I have a locked gate? Or the grounds outside the house are owned by an HOA? Or my pitbull will attack trespassers? Or they damage my million dollar garden gnome collection? Or the house isn’t even owned by me when they show up? And how do they know where on the house would be a good place do install the box?2 (Just a few examples, not all of them apply in our case.)
The Google Fiber technician arrives right on time and quickly notices that there is no NIU on the house. Therefore, he can’t do his work. He is only responsible for plugging a WiFi router into an existing NIU. We chat for a little while, then he files a ticket for another team that is responsible for the NIU, and drives off to the his appointment.
Subject: Your Google Fiber appointment on January 7, 2023 was canceled
Your Google Fiber appointment was canceled. If you need to select a new appointment, you can do so by contacting us. Thanks for being a Google Fiber customer.
The other team arrives. They notice that there is no NIU installed on the house. They are responsible for the maintenance of existing NIUs and fiber connections, not for installing them. Not sure what else to do, they suggest I call the Google Fiber hotline and also drive off. For what it’s worth, one of the guys says, he lives a few blocks away and has Google Fiber in his house. So this process has worked at least once before!
As instructed, I call (866) 777-7550 to ask what’s going on. I learn that Google Fiber outsources the fiber drop to a third party. They have a work order out for this third party and it sometimes happens that the job doesn’t get done by the time of the install appointment. Unfortunately, Google Fiber has no information about the work order other than its incomplete status. There is nobody at the third party who can be called or contacted to inquire. Just give it a couple more days, is the suggestion. A $25 credit will be applied to my account in exchange for the trouble this has caused. Wait a second, am I getting charged the monthly fee already!? — No, the $70/month only start after a successful install.
Subject: A credit has been applied to your Google Fiber account
The following one-time transaction has been applied to your account:
Description Amount Credit ($25) Total ($25)
We say hello to our new neighbors. They saw the Google Fiber car on Saturday and want to hear about our experience with them. They’ve been thinking about switching to Google Fiber too. We tell them that we’re cautiously optimistic.
Another call to (866) 777-7550. It’s been another couple of days, any news? — No.
While I have them on the phone, just checking: Is it really the standard process to do the fiber drop without the homeowner’s involvement? — Yes it is. The third-party installers show up when they want, install the NIU wherever they want, and dig the trench in whichever way they deem right. My questions about the practicality of doing it this way are politely deflected. There is an option to book a consultation with an expert who will explain the installation process to me. Said expert is fully booked for the next four weeks, so this would install the installation significantly. In conclusion: I should regularly check the exterior of the house for the appearance of a small wall-mounted box, and once confirmed call Google Fiber to schedule another installation appointment.
Subject: A follow-up from Google Fiber Support
Thank you for contacting the Google Fiber support team, here is a few links to help you understand the construction process, https://support.google.com/fiber/answer/6126559?hl=en and https://support.google.com/fiber/answer/6124985?hl=en .
If you have any issues please feel free to call us anytime at 1 (866) 777-7550. Thank you for being a valued customer.
Subject: Schedule your Google Fiber installation now
Don’t forget to make your installation appointment.
Are you ready for your Google Fiber installation? Just sign in to your Fiber account and schedule your appointment now.
Subject: Urgent: Set up your installation
Don’t miss out on Google Fiber
We’ve been trying to contact you to schedule your Google Fiber installation. Please sign in to the Fiber website and schedule your installation appointment as soon as possible. If you don’t schedule your installation within the next month, we’ll begin the process of canceling your account.
Calling my friends at (866) 777-7550 again. Fun fact: The people answering the phone when I call Google Fiber are all located in cities where Google Fiber is not available.
I explain my store, get put on hold, the call drops.
Another call, another agent to explain the situation to.
A call from the Google Fiber number! I’m in a work meeting and can’t answer. They don’t leave a message.
Hi, I spoke with your colleagues about problems with my Google Fiber installation this morning. They called back in the afternoon but I missed the call. Can you check their notes to see what the update was?
No, he can’t.
Thanks to lots of practice, I have a pretty concise way of explaining the situation. Here’s my chance to do another practice run. How can I find out what the colleague from the 8am call did, and what should I do next?
This rep has less patience for my long story than his colleagues. There are no notes from a prior call and there is nothing that can be done. Just wait for the installation to happen! Anything else he can help me with today?
I research the other options. We’re outside the coverage area of the smaller local ISPs and the new-fangled 5G-at-home offers aren’t available at out address either. Only Comcast Xfinity remains. I bite the bullet but pick a monthly plan that I can cancel as soon as Google gets their act together.
Subject: Your Google Fiber installation really can’t wait
It’s not too late to schedule your installation
We’ve been trying to contact you to schedule your Google Fiber installation. Please sign in to the Fiber website and schedule your installation appointment as soon as possible. Your Google Fiber account will be canceled if you don’t schedule your installation appointment in the next 15 days.
A robocall from Google. “Please schedule your Google Fiber installation as soon as possible!”
Subject: Your Google Fiber account will be canceled
Your account will be canceled in 72 hours
We’ve been trying to contact you to schedule your Google Fiber installation. Sign in to the Fiber website and schedule your installation appointment within the next 72 hours, or your account will be canceled.
I call the hotline, give a quick summary of everything that happened so far, and inform them that their system is about to cancel my account. After a few minutes on hold while the rep reviews the notes on my account, I learn that this is not how this is supposed to go and that something is not right. He also mentions that the original work order for my address has a note from early January saying that the fiber drop was not possible due to “weather”. That’s interesting considering that his colleagues on prior calls could not see any information on the work order.
While talking with me, the rep text chatted with a supervisor who helped escalate my case. I was sent on my way with an escalation case number and a promise to hear back within 72 hours. To trick the system into not canceling my account, we scheduled a “fake install appointment” a month into the future.
Subject: Your Google Fiber installation is scheduled for March 5, 2023 at 4:00 pm
Get ready for Google Fiber in your home!
We’re looking forward to meeting you at your in-home installation appointment on: Sunday, March 5, 2023 at 4:00 pm
Your appointment is expected to take 1 hour and 20 minutes. Please have an adult present during your entire appointment.
Subject: Your Google Fiber monthly statement
Here’s a quick summary of your latest Google Fiber statement:
Your account has a credit balance of $25.00. There’s nothing you need to do.
Missed call from the Google Fiber number.
The neighbor stops by. “How’s the Google Fiber working out?”
Hello and welcome to the Google Fiber family! We are excited to install your Google Fiber services and I would like to thank you for being a Google Fiber customer. You can reach our department at 888-320-4671 between the hours of 8:00am-5:00pm EST. You may also send a text message to this number for confirmation that you are continuing with your appointment and do not need to reschedule. Thank you and we look forward to hearing from you. Reply STOP to stop receiving messages
Good reminder, I would have missed our “just a placeholder” install appointment. I plan my weekend accordingly and look forward to another friendly but pointless meeting with the Google Fiber install crew.
Subject: Your Google Fiber appointment on March 5, 2023 was canceled
Your Google Fiber appointment was canceled
Your Google Fiber appointment for March 5, 2023 at 4:00 pm has been canceled.
If you need to select a new appointment, you can do so by contacting us. Thanks for being a Google Fiber customer.
Subject: How was your Google Fiber construction support experience?
Tell us how we did. We’re always trying to improve.
We’d love to know what you thought of your recent interaction with Google Fiber construction support. We’re constantly looking for ways to make Fiber even better, so we’d appreciate if you could take a few minutes to complete our feedback survey:
Subject: A follow-up from Google Fiber Support
We are emailing to inform you that we will be unable to meet your scheduled installation for Sunday, March 5th, 2023 at 4:00 PM.
In reviewing the lines last night and this morning this address is not ready. We will contact you once this is resolved to reschedule.
Thank you, Toni B. Google Fiber Construction Escalations Team
I tweeted about this blog post. @googlefiber responds:
Hi Jonas, apologies for the rough start to your Fiber experience. Please don’t hesitate to shoot me a DM and I’ll be glad to check on this to provide feedback and to see if I can help. -Gregory
I’m not sure what I could DM them beyond what they already know, so I pass.
It’s been an exciting month since I wrote this blog post. Warm spring weather mixed with several winter storms. The construction work on our house is coming together nicely. No news from Google Fiber.
Our outdoor security camera detected some motion. Is this a fiber cable on our lawn? The workers were outside the camera frame but sure enough, a cable had been run down the side of the house and a NIU installed. Success?
The technician is back, and this time I’m there to meet him. He proudly shows me the NIU which he installed at the most inconvenient (for him and us) location on the house. “Just run a cable back up to where you want the internet connection,” he says.
Next step for us is to call the hotline to schedule our install!
Email from Google Fiber:
Your Google Fiber account has been canceled
Google Fiber won’t be installed at [the address] and we’ve cancelled your account. If you paid a deposit, it’ll be refunded shortly to the credit or debit card on file for your account.
Google Drive storage
Your additional 1 terabyte of Google Drive storage will be removed and your storage limits will be set back to the free levels.
Everything in Google Drive, Google Photos, and Gmail will still be accessible but you won’t be able to create or add anything new over the free storage limit.
Network Interface Unit checkup
If a Network Interface Unit or “NIU” (a small grey box) has already been installed on the outside of your home, you may see a technician return to your home for a very brief visit.
This only happens in rare cases where our technicians need to ensure that all steps of the NIU installation process are complete and that nothing will pose any hazards to the residents of the home.
Although we’d love to bring you Fiber service, your address isn’t eligible to sign up. We’re sorry for any inconvenience we’ve caused you.
Have questions? We’re here to help.
I call the Google Fiber hotline.
“I see your phone number is not associated with an existing account. Are you a prospective customer?”
When they deleted my account, they also deleted all records of previous conversations and tickets related to my address. This blog post is now the only log of the sequence of events since I first made contact with the Google Fiber website almost five months ago.
I give a brief summary of the events so far and the agent commends me for being able to laugh about the ~situation~ institutional incompetency. During the following 20 minutes the agent multi-tasks: On chat he wordsmithes an escalation ticket that explains my apparently quite unusual case in a way that won’t get misunderstood elsewhere in the bureaucracy. At the same time I learn about the life story of him which is (and this is no sarcasm) book-worthy.
The escalation gets submitted and we chat some more while I explore a blog the agent wrote many years ago before we wrap up. How many call center agents work there anyway? What percentage of them have I met already?
Call from the Google Fiber number.
A friendly agent informs me that my case is officially getting reviewed and I can expect an update within 30 days. Asked if he has any more information on what happened he tells me: No, he just gets a list of numbers to call and what to say if someone answers.
Email from Google Fiber:
Hi. Nice to meet you.
Thanks for your interest in Google Fiber. We’re glad to be in touch.
Now that you’re signed up for updates, we’ll email you from time to time with the latest on our progress, and, of course, we’ll reach out as soon as we know if your address is able to get connected to Google Fiber.
In the meantime, we’ll be working hard on our commitment to connect more people to gigabit internet that’s open, fast, reliable, and fairly-priced. If you’re as excited about more access to fast, fair internet as we are, be sure to tell your neighbors. We’d love to get to know them, too.
A note about the weather
I suspect that the weather plays a role in this story. Salt Lake City is a past, and maybe also future, host city for the Winter Olympics Games. We are in the middle of a winter with above-average snowfall. In January and February 2023, SLC had a few weeks with more than a foot of snow on the ground and below-freezing daily high temperatures—as well as other weeks with higher temperatures and sunshine when most of the snow melted away.
If there had been any communication between the fiber drop crew and me, the homeowner, we could have figured this out and planned around the weather forecast. I could have shoveled any offending snow out of the way, and suggested NIU mounting location closer to the street than the default. If you choose to operate in Salt Lake City, the occasional snow day shouldn’t cause a complete process failure in your system, even when you’re headquartered in fair-weathered Mountain View.
Webpass has been part of Google Fiber since 2016 but seemed to be operating independently when we were their customers. ↩︎
I later learned that the NIU install crews are instructed to place the NIU near the gas meter. That makes for an unnecessarily complicated installation at our house because the fiber needs to be run under or around exterior stairs to the basement wall. Just so we can then run the Ethernet cable back up to the main floor where we’ll place the router. ↩︎