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  • Writer's pictureTeresa Mastrangelo

Let the Gigabit Wars Begin (at least in Austin, TX)

Google announced today (April 9, 2013) that Austin, TX would be the next Google Fiber city, with service expected by mid-2014.

Google Fiber will utilize a similar build-out strategy in Austin (that was used in Kansas City), by dividing the city into Fiberhoods and requiring pre-registration.  The areas that meet the pre-registration goals and have the highest levels of participation will be built out first.

It is expected they will also offer similar pricing and packages within Austin, including a free 5Mbps/1Mbps service.

According to Google, Austin, TX  is a “mecca for creativity and entrepreneurialism, with thriving artistic and  tech communities, as well as the University of Texas and its new medical  research hospital.”

Not to mention that Austin is home to the highly respected South by Southwest SXSW festival which focuses on the convergence of original music, independent films, and emerging technologies. And has been an innovator in Smart Grid programs.

A Little Competition Never Hurt Anybody

Unlike Kansas City – Austin, TX is AT&T’s turf and not to be outdone – AT&T quickly issued a press release today stating ” it is prepared to build an advanced fiber optic infrastructure in Austin, Texas, capable of delivering speeds up to 1 gigabit per second.”

The caveat is, of course, that AT&T “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”.

All’s Fair in Love and War and Gigabit Broadband?

That caveat is, of course, the sticking point.  According to many incumbent operators – particularly those competiting against Google Fiber in Kansas City and Austin – they simply want to be given the same incentives and concessions granted to Google Fiber.

As part of its bid to be the 1st Gigabit City, Kansas City (City) offered some very attractive incentives in exchange for Google’s build-out of its fiber network:

In general, the City is providing Google with complete access to its facilities, assets and infrastructure and will not  impose any charges for access to or use of any City facilities; nor will it impose any permit and inspection fees. Infrastructure includes, but will not be limited to, conduit, fiber, poles, rack space, nodes, buildings, facilities, CO locations, available land, and others (TBD). The City will allow Google to have access to necessary rights-of-way on property owned by City and includes a commitment to review and respond to any documents that require approval by City within five (5) working days of submission by Google.

According to the agreement,  the City regularly enters into public/private agreements with third parties for the development of improvements to the quality of life in City.

What’s in it for us?

One could argue that this provides Google with a competitive advantage.  However, I would argue that if the incumbent operator made a commitment to build this type of network and connect all anchor institutions, including schools, libraries and community centers at no chage – they would likely receive the same incentives.

On the other hand – haven’t these very operators already been afforded nearly every regulatory holiday the Federal government can offer?

Cities are getting smarter – only offering incentives when companies commit to improving their community services to be on par with Google’s efforts.  In Kansas City – this has resulted in free internet connections in hundreds of locations chosen by the government.

While the residents of Austin are lucky enough to know that Google Fiber is on its way – they may also find they will have their choice of two gigabit providers – if in fact, AT&T makes good on its threat.

Time will tell.


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