But they haven't just begun to falter. In various searches they have been faltering for years. they just falter in different areas at different times.
The counter to your post is why do you not see the areas where Florida and Austin have increased the quality of the SERPs?
Two years ago, it was easy to find some search areas where other search engines would out perform google. And on those same search engines you could find areas where Google would out perform them.
The same is true today, it is just that the areas have changed a little bit.
If Google sucks in the area that you are searching, then switch. If AV sucks in the area where you are searching, then switch.
The point that Hawkgirl made was that she actually got some good results. It sure sounds like Google didn't fail her and that it is not "faltering" in the areas where she searched.