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Google: 'Austin is our next Fiber city.' AT&T: 'Us, too – maybe'

Big Phone horns in on Googly gigabit internet announcement

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Google has officially announced what had already become an open secret: that Austin, Texas, will be its next "Google Fiber" city, where the online ad peddler will offer gigabit internet connections to homes and institutions. Soon after Google's announcement, AT&T chimed in with a copycat communiqué – albeit one with caveats.

Austin is a logical choice for Google Fiber's second location – Kansas City, Kansas being the first. Besides being home to the University of Texas, such tech giants as Apple, AMD, HP, Cisco, Dell, Intel, IBM, Facebook, Samsung, Rackspace, Oracle, and many others have presences in the city or environs – oh, and Google, as well.

Austin stood out, as Google Fiber VP Milo Medin put it in a blog post announcing the choice, because "It's a mecca for creativity and entrepreneurialism."

AT&T apparently agrees – and, just as apparently, wanted to water down Google's announcement with fibrous promise of their own a few short hours after the Austin choice was made official.

"Today," Big Phone's unsigned press release revealed, "AT&T announced that in conjunction with its previously announced Project VIP expansion of broadband access, it is prepared to build an advanced fiber optic infrastructure in Austin, Texas, capable of delivering speeds up to 1 gigabit per second."

Project VIP, by the way, is a three-year, $14bn investment plan – Project Velocity IP, actually – to expand both wireless and wireline broadband in AT&T markets.

Sharp-eyed Reg readers surely noticed in AT&T's announcement that the company "is prepared to build an advanced fiber optic infrastructure in Austin," and not that they are committed to build such a network. The next sentence in their release lays down the conditions for that expansion:

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.

In other words, "We're ready to talk turkey, Mayor Lee Leffingwell, State Senator Kirk Watson, or anyone else who might want to craft a deal we find pleasing – but before we make any promises, let's talk."

Google's Medin, on the other hand, says that his company's goal is to bring connecting homes to their one-gigabit-per-second network next year. That turnaround time is similar to the speed of their build-out in Kansas City, which was announced to be the first Google Fiber city in March 2011 and began taking orders the following July.

Google hasn't yet nailed down pricing, but Medin said that "we expect them to be roughly similar to Kansas City." In both Kansas City, Kansas, and now Kansas City, Missouri, that's $70 per month on a one-year contract for wired symmetric 1Gb/s with no data caps, plus a Google Fiber Network Box with 802.11a/b/g/n, 3x3 MIMO antennas, dual concurrent radios, and four gigabit Ethernet ports. A 1TB online Google Drive is also thrown in for good measure.

That's the basic Kansas City package. For $120 per month on a two-year contract, Google will throw in their TV Box for access to streaming HD channels (with a "Full channel TV lineup"), a Nexus 7 tablet as a remote, a 2TB Storage Box as a DVR for your HD content, and the option to pop for a Chomebook. Alternatively, you can get what Google calls "Free internet at today's average speeds" – 5Mbps down and 1Mbps up with no data caps – guaranteed for seven years for a one-time construction cost of $300 or $25 per month for a year.

We can't help but wonder if AT&T will be willing to offer seven years of 5/1Mbps Internet access for free, even if they're satisfied with the "investment incentives" profferred by the City of Austin.

And, for that matter, we can't help being a wee bit envious of our friends in the Central Texas city that back in the distant 1990s earned the nickname of Silicon Hills. ®

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