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Take that, Google: AT&T ups the ante with plans for its own Austin gigabit network

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Updated throughout at 2:12 p.m. PT with comments from AT&T.

AT&T (s t) plans to build a gigabit network in Austin, Texas according to a company release Tuesday. On any day this would be big news, but Google (S goog) just announced its own plans to build a fiber to the home, gigabit network in the Texas capital. Looks like Google’s plans to tweak the incumbent broadband players is working — at least at the press release level.

Google’s Kevin Lo said earlier today that the Google network won’t be available until mid-2014 and it’s unclear when AT&T’s network will be rolled out. Larry Solomon, a spokesman confirmed that AT&T’ plans to build a fiber-to-the-home network to “homes and buildings” in Austin. However, the timing depends on how soon AT&T can work with city and state officials to roll out service in a manner similar to how Google rolls out broadband in Kansas City.

In Kansas City Google deploys service in areas where a certain percentage of homeowners have already committed to taking the service. This helps it save money on deployment, because it can avoid building out to areas where interest is low and because it can deploy “in bulk” to neighborhoods when it goes out to dig trenches and connect homes.

Currently AT&T provides a fiber to the node product called U-verse that offers speeds of up to 24 Mbps down. However, as Google expanded in Kansas City, it received some concessions around permitting that the incumbents later complained about.

As a result, both Time Warner Cable and AT&T were granted similar benefits in Kansas City. However, in Austin, the agreements that Google has signed with the City of Austin are no different than the ones that AT&T and Time Warner have signed according to Laura Morrison, an Austin city councilwoman. Yet, AT&T in its release of the gigabit network seems to imply otherwise. From the release:

Today, AT&T announced that in conjunction with its previously announced Project VIP expansion of broadband access, it is prepared to build an advanced fiber optic infrastructure in Austin, Texas, capable of delivering speeds up to 1 gigabit per second. AT&T’s expanded fiber plans in Austin anticipate it will be granted the same terms and conditions as Google on issues such as geographic scope of offerings, rights of way, permitting, state licenses and any investment incentives. This expanded investment is not expected to materially alter AT&T’s anticipated 2013 capital expenditures.

When asked about AT&T’s plans, Google’s Lo responded “We think that Gigabit speeds are the future of the Web, and we believe that choice and competition are ultimately better for users.” This is good because aT&T’s Solomon says that AT&T plans to offer “competitive” rates on a gigabit and that it plans to bundle existing AT&T services with broadband packages. Solomon was vague on timing, since AT&T needs to work with the city to ensure it can build out the way it wants to.

As an Austin resident and broadband lover, I’m ecstatic that I might soon have not one, but two gigabit capable networks. Of course, with so little known about the cost, timing or the locations of either Google’s or AT&T’s network, I’ll wait to get out my party hat.

Updated at 12:01 PT to reflect incorrect information on the AT&T plans. Updated again at 12:27 PT after AT&T clarified further that it is planning a fiber to the home network.

27 Responses to “Take that, Google: AT&T ups the ante with plans for its own Austin gigabit network”

  1. Robin Lynn Ore

    Google is forcing AT&T’s hand. AT&T is a long time Monopoly, despite attempts at Baby Bell breakups. Recently, they lost their chance to gain International control over broadband bottleneck access fees via the United Nations Telecommunications Union. Toure’s proposal was soundly defeated, in part because Google showed up. As shown by Google in New York City, where they are providing free WiFi throughout the whole city, by building their own fiber optic networks, Google will be on a position to offer wireless, too and not have to use expensive AT&T back haul fiber. The alarm by AT&T is not just fiber to residents and businesses in Austin. Google is creating affordable wireless as well, while eliminating radiation towers in these cities. Anyone who has ever been an AT&T customer knows what that means! Go Google!

  2. Boost Austin’s economy in 2013 – what’s really needed is a campaign for 20/20Mbps symmetrical broadband service for $30 – to reach parity with leading global markets (such as Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea)

  3. I hope the blogs realize their role here is to see past these thin press releases. As others have already commented, ATT has like either a poorly executed “fast follow” strategy at best or a political tool to score points and slow things down at worst.

    Please, GigaOM, don’t just do a copy/paste of the news. Look into these PR posts and ask questions. It seems highly unlikely that ATT is a force of good here. Journalism shouldn’t only happen in the comments section.

  4. Ted T.

    Dear Google, please come to Manhattan — we need your fiber rollout in NYC desperately, as Verizon FIOS has turned out to be nothing but a bunch of empty promises for most New Yorkers (i.e. those not living in brand new buildings).

  5. firstlast

    AT&T is worse than the bell company that spawned it. Broadband is slower in the U.S. and costs more than twice than it does in other developed countries.

  6. Juan Roman

    GOD bless you Stacey! You actually don’t believe AT&T do you? I understand your job is to report but this screams BS on part of AT&T. History shows AT&T is just flat out not being truthful and can’t even compete with the speed offerings of your typical cable operator. Please call them out next time you have one of their mouth pieces on the record.

  7. cogneato

    Google has a history of making a move to force others to move. It’s not really a “take that” from AT&T. It’s a “step up or we will”, or a “watch how this is done” from Google. From various services through their phones, they’ve been doing this forever. It seems to work most of the time.

  8. If AT&T or Time Warner offered gigabit or even TERABIT I wouldn’t take it if I had a choice of someone else. I am so sick of this bullshit duopoly nonsense over the past decade where both companies 1) haven’t improved the infrastructure, 2) continually jacked up rates over time, and then 3) whined because some progressive company that’s fighting for consumers wanted a few subsidies.

    Fuck you, AT&T and TWC for your disservice to consumers and your lifetimes of anti-competition. You’re one of the few companies in this world that are successful without having to satisfy the majority of your customers.

  9. AT&T is now trying to play catch-up to Google and to get a little of the spotlight. If they would have built fiber to the home initially, like Verizon FiOS, they probably wouldn’t be facing competition from Google. I have U-verse in Austin; though, still only at the 18/1.5 speeds, since they didn’t place a neighborhood gateway close enough to my house, even though I’m in the city limits. Service has been fairly good and I almost always get close to the advertised speeds, except for the well publicized nationwide outages earlier this year, but I’ll switch to Google quickly if they beat AT&T to my neighborhood. Also, I didn’t get U-Verse TV, since it cuts into the limited bandwidth, but I may use U-verse TV on a gigabit network.

  10. Lo responded “We think that Gigabit speeds are the future of the Web”

    In the near-term — before mid-late 2014 — I’d like to see symmetrical broadband offered at a globally competitive price point from the incumbent ISPs in Austin.

    Does anyone else share this view, that we need some interim advancements?

  11. Chad Estes

    This is precisely why Google is doing this, to spur competition and increase broadband speeds. Google makes money with content and ads, not fiber networks. They’re doing this so they can continue to do what they do best: provide content and ads.

    This is awesome!

  12. braverytransmedia

    Google is forcing competition. Amazing. For Austin and for anywhere else this happens. Now if AT&T could only make me forget the terrible U-Verse & DSL experiences I had with them in Illinois before moving to ATX.

  13. Richard Bennett

    AT&T’s headquarters are in San Antonio, 75 miles from Austin. Surely nobody should have expected they’d sit back and do nothing as Google invaded their territory. This is going to get really, really interesting.

  14. Jeff Kibuule

    This is actually a pretty insulting move. Either a) they already knew Google Fiber was coming to Austin and are piggybacking on Google’s work or b) they could have done this ages ago and they are trying to generate some good PR. Both solutions mean that AT&T has it in their power to build a gigabit network but lack of competition means they see no reason to do so.

  15. Lionel Menchaca Jr.

    Yippee!!! Can’t wait for this to happen. Now having two options may impact time to market or price for the service. All around a good thing for Austin. :)

  16. Chirag

    AT&T should have done this years ago. Now that they know Google will get full market share they are coming to the party late. I’d rather pay more for Google’s Fiber then ATT. ATT has always been a scumbag.

  17. Stacy… they aren’t going to build a network, they are going to try and prove that Google is getting preferred treatment and that ATT wont get the same incentives and flexibility that Google will when trying to build a similar network. They in turn will use this as proof that Google networks should be considered anti-competitive. Austin better be very careful as they will set a precedent for future build outs.

    • I couldn’t agree more, Greg.

      AT&T is (as Stacey noted in her piece) just attempting a product roll out by press release. Their hope is that they will be able to snow enough of the public to make them think that they’re serious about the effort.

      All the while CEO Randall Stephenson and his gang are going to work every possible lobby in the entire State of Texas. From the Texas statehouse in Austin, to the Railroad Commission of Texas, to the Texas Attorney General’s office, to the state Ethics Commission, to the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority, to the Texas General Land Office, to the Travis County Commissioners Court, to the Austin city council, and especially to the offices of Mayor Leffingwell and City Manager Ott, no stone will be left unturned.

      Their only hope is to complain that Google is a tremendous disruption to AT&T’s core business, and that such an anti-competitive disruption must not be tolerated. Their overriding goal is to prevent and delay by any means necessary Google from conducting their rollout.

      With the many millions that they spend in this lobbying effort (something at which they perform excellently), they will not have to spend the billions needed to actually perform a rollout (something at which they are absolutely terrible.)

      • All we can hope, George, is that the good folks in Texas realize that a “disruption” to AT&Ts business is a good thing. And, that a free market is what the US is built on. I seriously doubt that Google is getting anything more than any other carrier for their efforts.

  18. jenmcgahan

    Sweet, we get a choice! Stacey, you’re way ahead of me on this (judging by your last post), but I agree it will be nice to use something other than Time Warner. Thanks for the update!