As the year draws to a close, the Texas Public Radio digital team is taking a look back at the most read — and listened to — stories of 2017. And overwhelmingly, through its clicks, our audience was interested in two subjects: Google Fiber and medical marijuana.
2016 ended with the future of Google Fiber in doubt. Expansion beyond the eight original sites was halted. The project’s CEO Craig Barratt left the company. And just when construction of the fiber optic network was starting to ramp up in the Alamo City, everything ground to a halt right at the start of the new year.
Now, here’s a look back at the Google Fiber saga and its eventual arrival in the Alamo City.
The Google Fiber series is part of TPR’s best of 2017.
The first Google Fiber hut began construction in July 2016, but in 2017 construction was halted after residents complained about the size of the huts used to house the network infrastructure.
While 17 Google Fiber huts were proposed, after completing just two debate began on the remaining 15 locations. Complaints ranged from the lot size, which are 50 feet by 30 feet, to how large it loomed in Haskin Park — the first site — on the city's Northeast Side. Discussion continued on which locations were acceptable to resume construction.
And even after construction was halted for nearly a month, city officials were still uncertain when activity would resume.
"I'm unfamiliar with their timeline," City Manager Sheryl Sculley told TPR in February. "They haven't shared that with us yet, but I'm optimistic."
Then, in April, the original structure in Haskin Park, which drew the ire of the community, was replaced with a smaller structure, and San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor was confident everything was back on track.
And it was.
The saga culminated in the arrival of Google Fiber to residents on the city’s West Side, with promises of expanded service in the upcoming year.
By the end of 2017, Texas had three medical marijuana dispensaries and grow operations legally registered by the state’s Department of Public Safety.
Georgia-based Surterra Wellness in North Austin; Florida-based Knox Medical in Schulenburg; and Compassionate Cultivation in Manchaca, just south of Austin, have all been approved to cultivate and distribute a low-THC cannabidiol oil.
There have been legislative efforts from lawmakers to expand Texas’ compassionate use program, including from Sen. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio. Menendez and others would like to add post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries and other medical conditions and disease states to the list for which a patient can be prescribed the non-euphoric component of cannabis known to treat epilepsy and other chronic medical conditions.
But when Gov. Greg Abbott signed the state’s compassionate use program into law, he said the law would not be a move to legalize marijuana, rather it would only include the oil that does not produce a “high.”
Abbott stressed, “I remain convinced that Texas should not legalize marijuana, nor should Texas open the door for conventional marijuana to be used for medical purposes.
“... As governor, I will not allow it.”
TPR's Ryan Poppe contributed to this report