AT&T has beaten out seven other contenders, including Time Warner Cable, in a winning bid to bring gigabit broadband service to two North Carolina cities -- Durham and Winston-Salem.
The bidding process was orchestrated by the leadership committee for the North Carolina Next Generation Network (NCNGN) initiative. The NCNGN group, which recommended AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) as the top candidate back in April, is composed of six municipalities and four universities. Durham and Winston-Salem are the first communities to approve the vendor recommendation. AT&T said it is waiting on further ratification from four other cities -- Carrboro, Cary, Chapel Hill, and Raleigh. (See AT&T's Going to Carolina With 1 Gig.)
AT&T has been vocal about its plans to build out gigabit networks across the country. The company began fiber deployments under the brand name U-verse with GigaPower in Austin, Texas in December, and it plans to expand to Dallas this summer. AT&T also said in April that it is considering gigabit rollouts in 100 other cities. So far, the North Carolina announcements are the only public indication of concrete plans outside of Texas. (See Who's Ready to Play Broadband?)
Although the NCNGN organization hasn't revealed all of the companies that were bidding on its gigabit project, it does not appear that Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) participated. Separately, however, the company is investigating bringing Google Fiber Inc. to the North Carolina capital of Raleigh. RST Fiber, a private organization based in Shelby, N.C., has also said it will extend fiber broadband service into the Research Triangle area, as well as Charlotte and Asheville.
NCNGN isn't the only public/private partnership model in place for gigabit expansion. Urbana-Champaign Big Broadband (UC2B) recently announced a deal with iTV-3 to take over management and expansion of that region's fiber network and gigabit broadband services. Like NCNGN, UC2B relied on local municipalities to organize initial high-speed network plans, but neither organization ever intended to run ongoing network operations. (See Taking a Different Path to 1 Gigabit.)
NCNGN told us back in February that it was flipping the Google gigabit model on its head. Instead of one company working with a bunch of cities, the communities participating in the NCNGN initiative are trying to work with a number of vendors.
Notably, the AT&T deals in North Carolina are not exclusive. So NCNGN could take on other broadband partners as well.
Meanwhile, AT&T also announced that it will expand its U-verse footprint in North Carolina even beyond the GigaPower rollouts. U-verse is available today in Raleigh, Cary, Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Charlotte, Asheville, and surrounding regions.
— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading