Who's Ready to Play Broadband?

AT&T's ready, Google's ready, but are the municipalities they want to serve ready, with the access rights and free stuff?

April 21, 2014

2 Min Read
Who's Ready to Play Broadband?

AT&T is stepping up to the gigabit challenge, throwing down something of a gauntlet, in fact. It looks to be aimed at Google, but I think the US telecom giant is instead challenging a whole other group of folks -- the politicians who lead the cities they want to serve. (See AT&T Turns Up Gig Heat in 21 New Metros and AT&T's Going to Carolina With 1 Gig.)

What AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is promising is investment in broadband networks that are capable of delivering 1 Gbit/s services into consumer homes, in up to 100 municipalities in the US, across 21 metropolitan areas, with some deployments planned to start this year. This is in addition to those they've already announced.

But within AT&T's press release is this critical nugget, attributed to Lori Lee, senior executive vice president, AT&T Home Solutions: "We're interested in working with communities that appreciate the value of the most advanced technologies, and are willing to encourage investment by offering solid investment cases and policies."

In other words, municipalities that want AT&T to move fast first need to pave the way for that to happen, by reducing or eliminating bureaucratic processes, providing free rights of way to include locating company equipment on municipally-owned land, and even offering perks such as power subsidies and more. The more a city or town can offer, the better the business case looks, and the faster AT&T -- and others in the gigabit race -- will move.

These aren't the kind of things telecom operators have traditionally gotten in the past. In fact, when AT&T first built U-Verse, it had to fight get its large metal boxes known as VRADs accepted in some cities and towns, going so far as to spend extra on landscaping to hide the ugly gear.

As more municipalities see the value of ultra high-speed networks, however, they are more willing to play ball and bend some rules.

Kansas City did this to become Google Fiber Inc. 's first home, and in some ways pioneered what other municipalities may need to do to join the ultra-high speed Internet access game. (See Google Stumbling on Fiber Innovation? and Google Fiber Shifts Into High Gear.)

In fact, I think we have to credit Google with being the real groundbreaker here in reinventing the local access network game. Let's just see if everyone wants to play with these new rules.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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