Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve got ourselves a fiber war. Hours after Google announced its plans to expand the fledgling gigabit Internet network Google Fiber to Austin, AT&T sent out a press release on Tuesday stating its intentions to build a rival fiber network in the same Texas city at the same time.
Like Google Fiber, AT&T’s first fiber network will deliver speeds up to 1 gigabit per second – roughly 100 times faster than today’s average broadband performance – and even addressed its prime competitor in its Tuesday press release.
“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,” according to AT&T. “This expanded investment is not expected to materially alter AT&T’s anticipated 2013 capital expenditures.”
AT&T, upon inquiry, refused to say when it plans to debut its fiber network, but Google said its goal is to “start connecting homes in Austin by mid-2014.”
“Customers there will have a similar choice of products as our customers in Kansas City: Gigabit Internet or Gigabit Internet plus our Google Fiber TV service with nearly 200 HD TV channels,” Google posted on its blog. “We’re still working out pricing details, but we expect them to be roughly similar to Kansas City.”
Google Fiber first rolled out in Kansas City in November, and just like in that city, Google will offer Austin customers a chance to receive a free Internet connection at a constant 5 mbps for seven years if they agree to a one-time $300 construction fee.
“In Kansas City, we’ve been amazed to see how gigabit connectivity has been able to bring people together,” said Kevin Lo, general manager for Google Fiber. “We think it’s even more awesome if you can connect multiple communities and multiple cities, and that’s why we’re so excited to be here in Austin, Texas. We have seen so much innovation and entrepreneurship, we have no doubt that Austin will know exactly what to do with a gig.”
In its blog post, Google encouraged city leaders to reach out to Google and learn more about Fiber, and how ultra-fast gigabit Internet can improve the way we work and communicate by opening access to essential resources like healthcare, banking and education.
“We’re also planning to connect many public institutions as we build in Austin— schools, hospitals, community centers, etc. — at a gigabit for no charge,” Google said. “Communities that are connected to the Internet grow stronger because there’s greater potential to create jobs, drive economic growth, and help businesses succeed. We believe the Internet’s next chapter will be built on gigabit speeds, and we hope this new Google Fiber city will inspire communities across America to think about what ultrafast connectivity could mean for them.”
AT&T released no details about its fiber network, but Google Fiber already delivers seamless Internet streaming and second-long downloads at prices competitive with all the major cable companies (considering the speeds you're paying for). For Gigabit Internet, Google Fiber customers pay $70 per month, and for Gigabit and fiber optic TV service (with 150+ channels), Google charges $120 a month – under both of these options, and Google waives the $300 construction fee required to install the cables.
Even though it’s not quite clear how Google and AT&T will compete with one another – likely by offering financial incentives and discounted rates for their other services – it’s abundantly clear that the true winner in this Texas shootout is Austin, which will be the first U.S. city to benefit from two competing fiber optic networks.
“When I heard Google Fiber is coming to Austin, I thought, ‘well, of course,’” said Kirk Watson, Texas state senator from District 14, in Google’s video. “I don’t think any Austinite can tell you right now what Google Fiber will mean to them a year from now. And that’s really the cool part, because in Austin, we’re ready to experiment with that, we’re ready to see what it’ll do. And I promise you, it’s going to be fun by the end.”