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April 10, 2014

AT&T Looks to Head Off Google in North Carolina



By Steve Anderson
Contributing TMCnet Writer



One of the truly great things about Google Fiber's entrance into the broadband market as a whole is how it's lighting a fire under long-dormant companies—who seemed perfectly content to sit on collective laurels and keep cashing checks without doing much to boost service or expand bandwidth caps. That particular point is shown playing out again as AT&T looks to bring its U-verse GigaPower fiber-optic service to six separate cities in North Carolina, in a bid to compete with not only Google (News - Alert) Fiber, but also Time Warner Cable's fiber offering as well.

The U-verse service is said to hit around 3,000 homes, 100 businesses, and a similar 100 public sites across six different North Carolina cities, including Carrboro, Cary, Chapel Hill, Durham, Raleigh, and Winston-Salem. Though there remains the issue of getting local approvals for AT&T (News - Alert)'s planned sites, once those are gained, then AT&T can begin work. Reports suggest that the cities in question could have approvals ready to go in the next several weeks, which would then lead to AT&T meeting with the cities and start laying down the necessary fiber to bring the services into action.

This kind of expansion has been seen regularly from AT&T, as the company makes moves in places where competition is about to get thicker than the ordinary. AT&T fiber services have already been seen in places like Austin, Texas, where Google is set to bring out enhanced Google Fiber systems. Reports from AT&T itself note that the Austin expansion “exceeded (its) expectations”, thus AT&T, in the words of AT&T's U-verse unit's head Lori Lee, was “...excited to bring some of the fastest Internet to North Carolina.”

Indeed, reports suggest that one of Google's biggest reasons for getting involved in fiber in the first place was to stimulate competition for broadband service providers, a development that seems to have happened, and then some. While this is good news for consumers, especially in areas where there isn't a whole lot of competition—some areas have what amounts to effective monopolies on service—it's the kind of thing that needs to be seen much more often in many more places.

There's some move on to do just that; recent reports suggest that the FCC's new chairman Tom Wheeler (News - Alert) was seen very much in favor of allowing municipal fiber networks, in which local areas set up a service much like an electrical grid or a sewer system. Such an approach has reportedly been successful in places like Seoul and Stockholm, so to suggest that Smalltown, U.S.A. could go forth and do likewise really isn't out of line. If services like Comcast (News - Alert), Time Warner Cable, and even AT&T had to compete with a local provider, prices would likely fall and service would likely increase to match, a development that would doubtless prove welcome for the users of such services.

The key takeaway here, however, is that more competition is a good thing across the industry. With cable providers actually made to fight over customers, that means a much better position for consumers. The threat “I'll just take my business elsewhere!” was supposed to be the ultimate weapon for consumers, and with new teeth in the threat, consumers may be in for a good time to come when it comes to getting online.




Edited by Alisen Downey
 
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