AT&T Also Eyeing Austin for 1 Gig Service

AT&T Wants Same Help from City as Google; Mayor Thinks That Can Be Arranged 4/09/2013 10:38 AM Eastern

It looks like there could be a duel for 1 gigabit broadband in the Texas sun.

On the heels of Google's announcement that it is expanding its Google Fiber from Kansas City to Austin, Texas, AT&T announced that it, too, would build a 1 gigabit fiber network to the city, so long as it got the same incentives the city is offering. The mayor said AT&T would get equal treatment, but that Google did not get any incentives.

AT&T is both making plans and making the point that the help Google got in Kansas City was a big reason it was able to make the high-speed offering.

Kansas City's willingness to smooth the way was key to Google's rollout of its Gigabit Internet and Google Fiber TV service, which it plans to offer in Austin starting next year.

Why Austin? Google described it as a "mecca for creativity and entrepreneurialism, with thriving artistic and tech communities, as well as the University of Texas and its new medical research hospital."

Google plans to work with the city to offer free hookups to schools, libraries and other public institutions, similar to its Kansas City model.

AT&T said that it, too, is prepared to build an advanced fiber optic network as long as "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 announcing the plan, AT&T chairman Randall Stephenson called it "most encouraging" what he said was "the recognition by government officials that policies which eliminate unnecessary regulation, lower costs and speed infrastructure deployment, can be a meaningful catalyst to additional investment in advanced networks."

Google's answer to AT&T was essentially 'bring it on," which was seconded by Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell

In a press conference on the Google expansion, Leffingwell was asked about the AT&T counter proposal. He said the city "would have to take a look at their operation and go through the same process that we went through with Google." He said the city had not offered any economic incentives to Google, but had simply committed to provide "expedited service and approvals for various licenses and rights of way...Certainly I think that would applicable to others."

Councilwoman Laura Morrison, who helped pitch Austin as the Google test city back when Kansas City beat it out in 2010, said that much of what Google has been doing with the city are standard procedures regulated by state law. "There is certainly nothing that is offered to Google that is not available to everyone."

Google Fiber GM Kevin Lo emphasized that Google got no special incentives, then said Google thought it was great when there is more user choice, that it welcomed AT&T's announcement and thought it was also great that AT&T "was recognizing that people wanted a gig."

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