Webpass is leaving Boston in latest sign of Google Fiber’s shrinking ambitions

Chris Welch
A Google Fiber technician installs a fiber optic box at a residential home as part of Google Fiber services in Provo, Utah. Google Fiber is now be headed to Dallas.
George Frey | Reuters

Webpass, the wireless home broadband company that Google Fiber acquired in 2016, is exiting the Boston market. The Verge received a reader tip on the situation and a quick look around revealed that Boston is no longer listed as a current Webpass market on the company's website. (It still appeared as recently as December.)

Reached by phone Tuesday evening, a Webpass customer service representative confirmed that the company has stopped accepting new customers in Boston. And in a statement, Access — the Alphabet subsidiary that runs Google Fiber — also confirmed the news.

"As with any acquisition, we've spent some time evaluating the Webpass business. As a result of our analysis, we've made the decision to wind down Webpass operations in Boston," an Access spokesperson said by email.

More from The Verge:

"We'll work with customers and partners to minimize disruption, and there will be no immediate impacts to their Webpass service. We continue to see strong subscriber response across the rest of the Webpass portfolio, including successful launches in Denver and Seattle in 2017."

Before this move, Boston was one of 8 cities served by Webpass, which delivers up-to-gigabit internet speeds for residential and commercial buildings by using point to point wireless. That number has dropped to 7, and old Google search results for Webpass service in Massachusetts now redirect to the main homepage.

Webpass internet service is available exclusively in apartment units and condo buildings. It originally came to Boston in 2015 and the company has (or at least had) an office in the city. Per The Boston Globe, Comcast and RCN already offer gigabit-class broadband in Boston. At least on Yelp, Webpass internet was well-reviewedamong Boston residents. Webpass last expanded its service a year ago to cover Denver.

Google Fiber announced its acquisition of Webpass in June 2016 amid reports that executives at Alphabet (including Larry Page) had demanded a scaling back of Fiber's costly rollout ambitions. Layoffs and executive departures followed, and a few months later in October, Google Fiber announced it would pause deployment efforts in nine cities. The company also recently cancelled hundreds of installations in Kansas City, its original launch market.

The wireless approach that Webpass uses is less expensive than laying fiber optic cable in the ground and doesn't come with the same local approval hurdles and slow progress that Google Fiber faced back when it seemed like Google was serious about taking on Comcast and other broadband providers.

But you need only look at Google Fiber's service map for a dose of reality and an idea of how those dreams have stalled over the last few years. At present, there are zero "upcoming Fiber city" locations listed on Google Fiber's map — only "potential" areas of future service. Google Fiber hasn't yet updated the map to remove Boston as a Webpass city. Chicago, Denver, Miami, Oakland / East Bay, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle are the remaining Webpass service areas.