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Google Fiber Proposes Major Expansion, But Continues to Ignore the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic

Google has proposed expanding its gigabit fiber network to nine metropolitan areas around the United States, but none of them include cities in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast dominated by Time Warner Cable, Comcast, and Verizon FiOS.

google fiber

Altogether, the expansion project could bring fiber to the home Internet service to 34 new cities:

  • Arizona: Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe
  • California: San Jose, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Palo Alto
  • Georgia: Atlanta, Avondale Estates, Brookhaven, College Park, Decatur, East Point, Hapeville, Sandy Springs, Smyrna
  • North Carolina: Charlotte, Carrboro, Cary, Chapel Hill, Durham, Garner, Morrisville, Raleigh
  • Oregon: Portland, Beaverton, Hillsboro, Gresham, Lake Oswego, Tigard
  • Tennessee: Nashville-Davidson
  • Texas: San Antonio
  • Utah: Salt Lake City

Google’s Fiber Blog:

google fiberNow that we’ve learned a lot from our Google Fiber projects in Kansas City, Austin and Provo, we want to help build more ultra-fast networks. So we’ve invited cities in nine metro areas around the U.S.—34 cities altogether—to work with us to explore what it would take to bring them Google Fiber.

We aim to provide updates by the end of the year about which cities will be getting Google Fiber. Between now and then, we’ll work closely with each city’s leaders on a joint planning process that will not only map out a Google Fiber network in detail, but also assess what unique local challenges we might face. These are such big jobs that advance planning goes a long way toward helping us stick to schedules and minimize disruption for residents.

We’re going to work on a detailed study of local factors that could affect construction, like topography (e.g., hills, flood zones), housing density and the condition of local infrastructure. Meanwhile, cities will complete a checklist of items that will help them get ready for a project of this scale and speed. For example, they’ll provide us with maps of existing conduit, water, gas and electricity lines so that we can plan where to place fiber. They’ll also help us find ways to access existing infrastructure—like utility poles—so we don’t unnecessarily dig up streets or have to put up a new pole next to an existing one.

While we do want to bring Fiber to every one of these cities, it might not work out for everyone. But cities who go through this process with us will be more prepared for us or any provider who wants to build a fiber network. In fact, we want to give everyone a boost in their thinking about how to bring fiber to their communities; we plan to share what we learn in these 34 cities, and in the meantime you can check out some tips in a recent guest post on the Google Fiber blog by industry expert Joanne Hovis. Stay tuned for updates, and we hope this news inspires more communities across America to take steps to get to a gig.

Google does not guarantee every community will actually get the service, and a read between the lines makes it clear that a close working relationship between Google and city officials and utilities will be essential for projects to move forward. Bureaucratic red tape could be a fiber-killer in some of these communities, as could an intransigent utility fighting to keep Google fiber off utility-owned poles.

Google continues to completely ignore the northeastern United States for fiber expansion. Analysts suggest Google will not enter areas where fiber broadband service already exists, and this region of the country is home to the largest deployment of Verizon’s FiOS. Despite the fact Verizon has canceled further expansion, and large sections of the region have little chance of seeing a fiber upgrade anytime soon, Google seems more interested in serving the middle of the country and fast growing areas including North Carolina, Georgia, Phoenix and Texas. Its choice of San Jose obviously reflects the presence of Silicon Valley.

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PowerPlay: AT&T Says Google Fiber Cannot Use Its Utility Poles in Austin

att poleAT&T has informed Google it will not allow the search engine company to use its utility poles to build a fiber optic network that will compete with AT&T’s own GigaPower fiber service, which launched in Austin this week.

Current rules require utilities to provide non-discriminatory access to poles for all electric and telecommunications companies. AT&T has declared Google is neither, but is willing to work with the company once it is “qualified,” said Tracy King, AT&T’s vice president for public affairs.

“By challenging the city to force an employer to share its equipment contrary to federal law and without transparency, Google appears to be demanding concessions never provided any other entity before,” said King.

The dispute now threatens to involve Austin’s city council, which fears AT&T’s position could result in thousands of new utility poles being installed next to AT&T-owned poles. City officials warn they are willing to settle the matter by changing the rules for all utility companies, using their authority as the owner of the land on which the utility poles are placed.

“We don’t want people to put up their own poles,” Rondella Hawkins, Austin’s telecommunications and regulatory affairs officer, told the Austin-American Statesman. “We want to avoid anybody putting up redundant utility poles. Could you imagine a city where all the (telecommunications) providers individually have their own utility poles? It would be a mess.”

Google said it wants to bring its fiber network to Austin in the least disruptive way possible, and AT&T’s actions may complicate the project.

Martinez

Martinez

The proposed rules change threatened by the city council brought immediate opposition from both AT&T and the unions that represent AT&T workers.

“The city of Austin should not jump into what amounts to a business dispute and create winners and losers before everyone can present data on all the stakes that are involved,” wrote Becky Moeller, president of the Texas AFL-CIO.

This afternoon, with the rules change pending on the calendar, Google and AT&T apparently decided to work out the dispute before the city imposed a solution.

“After hard work, lots of meetings and tons of input – AT&T and Google agree to negotiate their issues with the city,” Austin council member Mike Martinez wrote on his Facebook page. “A postponement of [the ordinance change] is highly likely. Thank you to them and all who helped make this happen.”

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/KVUE Austin Dispute Between Google ATT 12-11-13.mp4

KVUE in Austin reports the pole attachment dispute between AT&T and Google threatens to involve the city council. (3:09)

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How Overland Park Blew Google Fiber; Bureaucratic Ineptitude Stalls Project Indefinitely

lucyAfter nine months of foot dragging-negotiations between Overland Park officials and Google Fiber, a last-minute protest by a city council member over an indemnification clause that turned out to be insignificant was the last straw.

Now residents of Overland Park are off Google’s upgrade list for gigabit broadband indefinitely.

Service providers often face a minefield negotiating with local governments over issues like zoning, performance guidelines, franchise agreements, and minimizing disruption to the community. Some also face confusion about technology or a lack of understanding that infrastructure projects require careful scheduling and seasonal construction limitations.

In Overland Park, it was “all of the above” say infuriated residents who watched the fiber project slip away at an Oct. 14 city council meeting when lawyers representing Google requested an indefinite continuance.

“Clearly Google was saying to Overland Park and other cities: if you make this process too difficult for us, we will pick up our ball and go play somewhere else,” said Overland Park resident Robert Walch.

Walch said city council members appeared shocked when Google’s representative broke the news. Just a month earlier, council members including Terry Goodman, Curt Skoog, and Richard Collins seemed intent to pelt Google with a range of objections and unusual questions that suggested a lack of basic knowledge about fiber broadband.

Phillip Dampier

Phillip Dampier

According to those in attendance, Skoog in particular seemed far out of his depth, questioning if 1,000/1,000Mbps was fast enough to provide connections for 6-12 computer terminals inside a local school.

Council member Park Lyons patronizingly told Google representatives Overland Park was one of the best cities in the country and he was glad Google recognized as much.

“There is so much excitement about Google Fiber, and I know people think we should blindly go forward, but I think we need to look at this in a dispassionate way and have due diligence,” Lyons explained.

As Google’s representatives continued to field questions about the project even as the 2013 construction season began to wind down, Skoog sensed Google’s growing exasperation, finally asking at an earlier meeting if they were prepared to walk away over what Skoog characterized as a “minor detail.”

The answer, apparently, was yes, much to the surprise of a stunned city council witnessing a privately funded, multi-million dollar broadband improvement project collapsing before their eyes. Damage control for exposed council members likely to face the wrath of voters began immediately, starting with a symbolic, but largely empty resolution expressing the council’s profound interest in the fiber project they just buried.

“It’s disappointing because it would have been nice to have in the schools and the libraries and stuff. I know that the Internet is really spotty at the school,” Katie Lehn, an Overland Park mother told KCTV-5.

“Overland Park made it really, really hard for Google, and Google has a lot of other cities and towns to work with,” noted Walch. “I have to say, if you’re on Overland Park Council now, you have to know that this is your last term.”

overland parkIndustry observers agree with Walch.

“Google maybe wanted to send a louder message that they wanted faster response from other communities to come,” said Donna Jaegers, a telecommunications analyst for D.A. Davidson & Co. “A month delay would not be enough to put off a design like that.”

“Google is sending a negotiating message to any other city: You take our terms, or we’re going to walk,” said Steve Effros, an industry analyst who headed the Cable Telecommunications Association for two decades.

Effros told the Associated Press Google was obviously making an example out of Overland Park, while getting special treatment from other nearby communities that incumbent cable and phone companies never got.

The message that Google is willing to walk away from lucrative, upscale communities like Overland Park over bureaucratic headaches has an impact on both Google and local government. Overland Park is an upscale community of 176,000 within metro Kansas City. The community’s median household income is more than $66,500 a year — excellent prospects to sign up for Google service.

blew itBut now Overland Park will have to wait even as neighborhoods around the community get the fiber optic service first.

“Overland Park wants Google Fiber,” said Overland Park Mayor Carl Gerlach. “The city council is ready to sign on the dotted line. … We’re willing to wait as long as it takes.”

Google isn’t ready to forgive and forget just yet, and communities like Overland Park cannot say they were never warned.

Milo Medin, Google’s vice president of access services, told the media in May that Google was picking communities that make their life easier as the fiber infrastructure is installed.

“In general, we go where it’s easy to build,” Medin said. “If you make it hard for me to build, and there are other places where it’s easy to build, I will probably go to those other places.”

Six months later, nothing has changed.

“We need to refocus our energy and our resources on the communities that are waiting for fiber,” said Google spokeswoman Jenna Wandres.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/KCTV Kansas City Overland Park on Hold With Google 10-25-13.mp4

KCTV in Kansas City reports Overland Park residents are unhappy Google Fiber is popping up everywhere, but not in Overland Park.  (3 minutes)

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Accidentally Leaked U-verse Pricing No Bargain: 45Mbps $76, 300Mbps $199

An enterprising reader of the Broadband ReportsAT&T Forum stumbled on proposed pricing for AT&T’s faster speed services for U-verse and, presumably, their planned fiber-to-the-home rollout in Austin, Tex.:

UVerse

The prices are no bargain in comparison to the $70 a month Google charges Kansas City residents for 1,000/1,000Mbps service, but on the lower end, AT&T’s 45Mbps U-verse option is comparable to Time Warner Cable’s 50/5Mbps tier, which now sells for $65-75 a month on a one-year promotion:

twc speed

Time Warner Cable’s latest broadband offers

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Verizon FiOS Introduces 500/100Mbps Service; $294.99 With 2-Yr Contract

Verizon is “redefining the power of the Internet” in select FiOS areas with the introduction of a new 500/100Mbps speed tier that blows away Time Warner Cable and leaves Cablevision and other competitors woefully behind.

Just weeks after Cablevision boosted upload speeds, Verizon has responded with service offerings up to a half gigabit in speed, telling customers FiOS Quantum 150/65Mbps, 300/65Mbps, and 500/100Mbps plans will “radically change everything you do online right now – and in the future.” It is ten times faster than the fastest service available from Time Warner Cable in the northeast: 50/5Mbps.

FiOS Speeds

Verizon’s fastest broadband does not come cheap, however. The 500Mbps package starts at $294.99 a month for new customers with a two-year contract. Verizon Voice service is required to get the promotional price and a $165 early termination fee applies (reduced by $7.50 for each month a customer maintains service). A $59.99 activation and other fees, taxes, charges, and terms apply. Customers must also pass a credit check to avoid a deposit. Skip the contract and other requirements and the rate is only slightly more: $304.99 a month.

Verizon is charging nearly four times more than what Google charges for its twice as fast gigabit service. But analysts believe that Google will never venture into Verizon FiOS territory so price competition is unlikely in the near term. Cable operators that compete with Verizon would have to dedicate a considerable amount of bandwidth to best Verizon’s download speeds, and matching upstream speeds will be even more problematic unless and until cable operators transition their systems to all digital video to free up bandwidth.

But Verizon’s fastest Internet speeds are not available in all FiOS areas. The company warns “500/100Mbps service availability may be limited in your area based on network qualification requirements.”

fios quantum

Verizon’s competitors, which don’t have the benefit of an all-fiber network, continue to stress consumers simply don’t need any speeds faster than what they now offer. Frontier Communications believes most consumers do just fine with 6Mbps DSL. Verizon’s larger cable competitors range from Time Warner Cable, which does not even try to match its competitor’s fiber speeds, to Bright House, which competes with Verizon FiOS in Florida, to Comcast, which offers faster Internet service but regularly threatens to cap how much customers can use each month. Verizon FiOS has, in practical terms, no usage caps.

“For some, the discussion about the broadband Internet seems to begin and end on the issue of ‘gigabit’ access. The issue with such speed is really more about demand than supply. Most websites can’t deliver content as fast as current networks move, and most U.S. homes have routers that can’t support the speed already available.” — David Cohen, chief lobbyist, Comcast Corp., May 2013

“Residential customers, at this time, do not need the bandwidth offered with dedicated fiber – however, Bright House has led the industry in comprehensively deploying next-generation bandwidth services (DOCSIS 3.0) to its entire footprint in Florida – current speeds offered are 50Mbps with the ability to offer much higher. We provision our network according to our customers’ needs.” – Don Forbes, Bright House Networks, February 2011

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/Verizon FiOS Introduces 500Mbps 7-22-13.mp4

Verizon FiOS introduces faster broadband speeds to help customers accomplish more of what they want to do online. Verizon’s Fowler Abercrombie says ‘it’s only the beginning’ as Verizon continues to innovate on its fiber to the home network. (2 minutes)

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Google Fiber’s $300 Install Fee Meets Resistance from Landlords; Renters May Be Left Out

Phillip Dampier July 9, 2013 Competition, Consumer News, Google Fiber 5 Comments

google fiberGoogle Fiber may not be coming to a Kansas City apartment complex near you.

The coveted gigabit fiber to the home service is drawing criticism from owners of multi-dwelling units, condos, and apartment buildings because of its installation fee.

Google requires property owners to either go all-in or forget about getting the service. That means $300 for each apartment or condo, regardless of whether it is occupied or if an existing tenant wants the service or not.

Landlords tell the Kansas City Star the installation fee is just too much, especially when considering the phone and cable company wired their buildings for free. The newspaper notes that a 350-unit apartment complex opting in to Google Fiber will have to pay more than $100,000 upfront just to get the service.

Those living in one of nine CRES Management apartment complexes suspect they won’t be getting Google Fiber now or in the future — the property owners balked at an installation fee for their properties well into the six figures.

cres“I don’t know many apartment complexes that have $100,000 in the bank just waiting to be spent,” said Jon Gambill, CRES Management information technology director.

Google doesn’t offer volume discounts for multi-dwelling unit owners, but is willing to accept installment payments over 12 months. Google has also promised to refund the installation fees in $25 monthly increments for each paying customer until the $300 per unit fee is returned. But if a renter opts for the free, slower Internet service Google provides, the landlord will have to absorb the installation cost.

“If people can get free Internet, they’re not going to pay for premium,” Gambill told the newspaper. “If someone doesn’t want to pay for Internet, they really don’t have to, but then we’ve lost out on that reimbursement.”

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When Do You “Need” Faster Speeds? When Competition Arrives Offering Them

broadband dead end“We just don’t see the need of delivering [gigabit broadband] to consumers.” — Irene Esteves, former chief financial officer, Time Warner Cable, February 2013

“For some, the discussion about the broadband Internet seems to begin and end on the issue of ‘gigabit’ access. The issue with such speed is really more about demand than supply. Most websites can’t deliver content as fast as current networks move, and most U.S. homes have routers that can’t support the speed already available.” — David Cohen, chief lobbyist, Comcast Corp., May 2013

“We don’t focus on megabits, we don’t focus on gigabits, we focus on activities. We go to the activity set to get a sense of what customers are actually doing and the majority of our customers fit into that 6Mbps or less category.” — Maggie Wilderotter, CEO, Frontier Communications, May 2013

“It would cost multiple billions” to upgrade Cox’s network to offer gigabit speeds to all its customers. — Pat Esser, CEO, Cox Communications, Pat Esser, chief executive of Cox Communications Inc., January 2013

“The problem with [matching Google Fiber speeds] is even if you build the last mile access plant to [offer gigabit speeds], there is neither the applications that require that nor a broader Internet backbone and servers delivering at that speed. It ends up being more about publicity and bragging. There has been a whole series of articles in the paper about ‘I’m a little startup business and boy it is really great I can get this’ and my reaction is we already have plant there that can deliver whatever it is they are talking about in those articles, which is usually not stuff that requires that high-speed.” — Glenn Britt, CEO, Time Warner Cable, December 2012

“Residential customers, at this time, do not need the bandwidth offered with dedicated fiber – however, Bright House has led the industry in comprehensively deploying next-generation bandwidth services (DOCSIS 3.0) to its entire footprint in Florida – current speeds offered are 50Mbps with the ability to offer much higher. We provision our network according to our customers’ needs.” – Don Forbes, Bright House Networks, February 2011

‘Charter [Cable] is not seeing enough demand to warrant extending fiber to small and medium-sized businesses — and certainly not to every household.’ — “Speedier Internet Rivals Push Past Cable“, New York Times, Jan. 2, 2013

Unless you live in Kansas City, Austin, in a community where public broadband exists, or where Verizon FiOS provides its fiber optic service, chances are your broadband speeds are not growing much, but are getting more expensive. The only thing innovative coming from the local phone or cable company is a constant effort to convince customers they don’t need faster Internet access anyway.

At least until a competitor threatens to shake up the comfortable status quo.

Time Warner Cable claims they are perfectly comfortable offering residential customers no better than 50/5Mbps, except in markets like Kansas City (and soon in Texas) where 100Mbps is more satisfying. Why is a glass Time Warner claims is full to the brim everywhere else in the country only half-full in Kansas City? Google Fiber might be the answer. It offers 1,000/1,000Mbps service for less money than Time Warner used to charge for 50Mbps service, and Google is also headed to Austin.

special reportAT&T scoffed at following Verizon into the world of fiber optic broadband, where broadband speeds are limited only by the possibilities. Instead, they built their half-fiber, half-Alexander Graham Bell-era copper wire hybrid network on the cheap and ended up with broadband speeds topping out around 24Mbps, at least in a perfect AT&T world, assuming everything was ideal between your home and their central office.

At the time U-verse was first breaking ground, cable broadband’s “good enough for you” top Internet speed was typically 10-20Mbps. Now that incrementally faster cable Internet speeds are available from recent DOCSIS 3.0 cable upgrades, AT&T is coming back with an incremental upgrade of its own, to deliver around 75Mbps.

It is still slower than cable, but AT&T thinks it is fast enough for their customers, except in Austin, where Google Fiber provoked the company to claim it would build its own 1,000Mbps fiber network to compete (if it got everything on its Christmas Wish List from federal, state, and local governments).

Are you starting to see a trend here? Competition can turn providers’ investment frowns upside down and get customers faster Internet access.

Wilderotter: Most of our customers are satisfied with 6Mbps broadband.

Wilderotter: Most of our customers are satisfied with 6Mbps broadband.

In rural markets were Frontier Communications faces far less competition from well-heeled cable companies, the company can claim it doesn’t believe most of its customers need north of 6Mbps to do important things on the Internet. If they did, where would they go to do them?

Where Comcast and AT&T directly compete, major Internet speed increases are a matter of “why bother – who needs them.” Comcast is more generous where it faces down Verizon FiOS. AT&T also knows the clock is ticking where Google Fiber is coming to town.

Verizon FiOS, Google Fiber, and a number of community-owned fiber to the home broadband networks like EPB in Chattanooga and Greenlight in Wilson, N.C. seem more interested in boosting speeds to build market share, increase revenue to cover their expenses, and make a marketing point their networks are superior. They respond to requests for speed upgrades differently — “why not?”

Verizon figured out offering 50/25Mbps service was simple to offer and easy to embrace. Two clicks on a FiOS remote control and $10 more a month gets a major speed upgrade for basic Internet customers that used to get 15/5Mbps service. Verizon management reports they are pleased with the number of customers signing up.

In Chattanooga, Tenn. EPB Fiber offered gigabit Internet service because, in the words of its managing director, “it could.” The community-owned utility did not even know how to price residential gigabit service when it first went on offer, but the costs to EPB to offer those speeds are considerably lower over fiber to the home broadband infrastructure.

Broadband customers in Chattanooga, Kansas City and Austin are not too different from customers in Knoxville, Des Moines, and Houston. But the available broadband speeds in those cities sure are.

LUS Fiber in Lafayette, La. changed the song Cox was singing about their ‘adequate’ broadband speeds. Earlier this year, Cox unveiled up to 150/25Mbps service to cut the number of departing customers headed to the community owned utility, already offering those speeds.

Convincing Wall Street that spending money to upgrade networks to next generation technology will earn more money in the long run has failed miserably as a strategy.

“Competitors have been overbuilding, investors are wondering where the returns are,” said Mark Ansboury, president and co-founder of GigaBit Squared. “What you’re seeing is an entrenchment, companies leveraging what they already have in play.”

With North American broadband prices rising, and some cable companies earning 90-95% margins selling broadband, one might think there is plenty of money available to spend on broadband upgrades. Instead, investors are receiving increased dividend payouts, executive compensation packages are swelling as a reward for maximizing shareholder value, and many companies are buying back their stock, refinancing or paying off debt instead of pouring money into major network upgrades.

That is not true in Europe, where providers are making headlines with major network improvements and speed increases, all while charging much less than what North Americans pay for broadband service.

UPC Netherlands is Holland's second biggest cable company and it is in the middle of a broadband speed war with fiber to the home providers.

UPC Netherlands is Holland’s second biggest cable company and is in the middle of a broadband speed war with fiber to the home providers.

In the Netherlands, the very concept of Google Fiber’s affordable gigabit speeds terrify cable operators like UPC Netherlands, especially when existing fiber to the home providers in the country are taking Google’s cue and advertising gigabit service themselves. UPC rushed to dedicate up to 16 bonded cable channels to boost cable broadband speeds to 500Mbps in recent field trials, without giving any serious thought to the cable operators in the United States that argue customers don’t need or want the faster Internet speeds fiber offers.

“We had to address it head on very recently because of the fiber (competition)” said vice president of technology Bill Warga. “The company is called Reggefiber in the Netherlands. What they’re touting is a 1Gbps service, [the same speed] upstream and downstream. We came out with 500Mbps service. We had to build a special modem because (DOCSIS) 3.1 chips aren’t out yet. We had to double up on the chips in the modem and put it out there because we had to have a competing product, if anything just in the press. That was a reaction but that tells you how quickly in a marketplace that something can move.”

Despite that, groupthink among cable industry attendees back home at the SCTE Rocky Mountain Chapter Symposium agreed that Google Fiber was a political and marketing stunt, “since the majority of users don’t need those types of speed.”

Who does need and want 500Mbps? Executives at UPC, who have it installed in their homes, admits Warga. But cost can also impact consumer demand. Currently, the most popular legacy UPC broadband package offers 25Mbps for €25 ($32.50). The company now sells 60/6Mbps for €52,50 ($48.75), 100/10Mbps for €42,50 ($55.25) or 150-200/10Mbps for €52,50 ($68.25).

Warga also admits the competition has put UPC in a speed race, and boosted speeds are coming fast and furious.

“They’ll come in and say they’re 100, or 101Mbps we’ll come back and say we’re 110 or 120, or 130Mbps,” Warga said. “It’s a bit of a cat and mouse game, but we always feel like we can be ahead. For us DOCSIS 3.1 can’t come soon enough.”

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/WSJ Cable Broadband Speeds 1-13.flv

The Wall Street Journal investigates why cable companies are getting stingy with broadband speed upgrades while gigabit fiber networks are springing up around the country. (4 minutes)

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AT&T Will Follow Google’s Lead: Faster Speed Networks Only in High Demand Areas

att_logoAT&T says government regulations have hampered the company’s plans to roll out faster broadband networks to areas where consumers and businesses want faster speeds.

Now that Google has gotten permission to roll out its gigabit fiber network only to neighborhoods that show an interest in the service, AT&T says it should be allowed to operate the same way.

CEO Randall Stephenson told investors at a J.P. Morgan investor conference in Boston that AT&T would like to build fiber networks, but government requirements that it offer the service universally across the communities it serves has made such networks financially unprofitable. Eliminating those rules would create a new incentive for fiber upgrades in areas that want them.

“I think you are going to see that begin to manifest itself around the United States, and in not just AT&T and Google,” Stephenson said. “You will see others doing this because the demand for really high-speed broadband via gigabit-type fiber-based solutions on a targeted basis is going to be very, very high.”

AT&T says Google has already changed how future broadband networks are deployed — only to areas where there is enough demand for the service. Google’s entry into Kansas City came with a pre-registration procedure that allowed the company to gauge demand for its fiber network. The neighborhoods expressing the most interest were given priority during the network buildout. Google also won the right to entirely bypass neighborhoods where an insufficient number of residents expressed interest in the service.

Stephenson

Stephenson

Traditionally, cable and phone companies constructing networks like FiOS, U-verse, and similar fiber deployments are required to offer service throughout each community. The only general exception relates to sparsely populated or very high cost areas that have an insufficient number of potential customers, making return on investment difficult. Google can bypass even the most densely populated sections of downtown Kansas City if there is insufficient demand for its service. Cable and phone providers who attempted this in the past would have been accused of “redlining” — singling out only the most lucrative, affluent service areas while bypassing low-income neighborhoods.

Now AT&T hopes Google has established a precedent it can use to cherry-pick network upgrades of its own.

“The key is being able to do it in places where you know there is going to be high demand and people willing to pay the premium for those type services,” Stephenson said, predicting in some parts of Austin, AT&T could achieve a 35 percent market share for its promised fiber network.

Stephenson also suggested an unlikely new source of money to finance fiber upgrades — content producers and applications developers who need faster networks to support sales of their online products and services. That would shift the economics of faster broadband to an entire new model — broadband providers may decide their current networks are fast enough and might avoid upgrading them without some financial compensation from the websites and content producers customers visit.

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Spring Snowstorm Eclipses Omaha’s Initial Interest in CenturyLink Gigabit Broadband Trial

A freak spring snowstorm has stolen CenturyLink's thunder.

A freak spring snowstorm has stolen CenturyLink’s thunder.

A freak spring snowstorm has covered up much of the anticipated publicity for CenturyLink’s plans to launch a trial of gigabit fiber broadband for 48,000 customers in western Omaha.

The phone company announced the pilot project this week amid a historic spring storm that dumped several inches of heavy, wet snow on parts of Nebraska. The media devoted most of its attention to the weather.

CenturyLink admits its gigabit fiber service is a pilot project designed to test consumer demand and the tolerance of local officials for limiting upgrades to selected neighborhoods and customers most likely to buy the service. CenturyLink has priced the gigabit service comparably to Google Fiber — $79.95 a month if bundled with other CenturyLink products. Standalone broadband is nearly twice as expensive — $149.95 a month.

“CenturyLink is pleased to offer its Omaha customers ultra-fast broadband speeds up to 1Gbps to help keep pace with growing broadband demands,” said Karen Puckett, chief operating officer. “This demonstrates our commitment to deliver communications solutions that provide our customers with the technology they need to enhance their quality of life, now and into the future.”

CenturyLink will not be building the fiber network from scratch. The company already runs a 100Gbps middle-mile/institutional fiber network in Omaha that reaches certain business clients and serves as a conduit for CenturyLink customer traffic. CenturyLink will supplement that by using the remnants of its predecessor’s long-gone Qwest Choice TV service. The company will spend millions to run fiber connections to homes and businesses, but around 9,800 residents formerly served by Qwest’s television service will be able to sign up for CenturyLink Lightspeed Broadband as early as Monday. Others may have to wait until as late as October.

lightspeedCenturyLink now sells up to 40Mbps speeds in Omaha, with a 300GB monthly usage cap. The company has not said if it intends to apply a usage limit on its fiber customers.

The phone company’s largest and fastest competitor is Cox Cable, which sells up to 150/20Mbps service for $99.99 a month.

Cox Cable cannot match CenturyLink’s speeds at the moment, but does not think most Omaha residents need or want gigabit fiber.

“It is important to note that our most popular Internet package remains the one that provides speeds of 25Mbps, which meets the needs of the majority of customers,” said Cox spokesman Todd Smith. “We will continue to talk with our customers and invest in product enhancements to provide an optimal broadband experience.”

omaha centurylink fiberOnly around 12% of metropolitan Omaha will have access to the experimental fiber service, primarily those living in West Omaha. The network will bypass residents that live further east. The boundaries of the forthcoming fiber network are notable: West Omaha comprises mostly affluent middle and upper class professionals and is one of the wealthiest areas in the metropolitan region. Winning a right to offer service on a limited basis within Omaha is an important consideration for telecom companies like CenturyLink.

AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink and other telecommunications companies are seeking deregulation that would end universal service mandates that require companies to build their networks in every neighborhood, rich and poor.

Cable and telephone companies have taken careful note Google Fiber is being allowed to provide service only where demand can be found — a significant change in long-standing municipal policies that demand cable and phone companies provide access to nearly every resident.

CenturyLink delivered a “between the lines” message to local officials when it suggested it might expand its fiber network elsewhere in Omaha and beyond, but only after evaluating the project for “positive community support, competitive parity in the marketplace and the ability to earn a reasonable return on its investment.”

In other words, keeping zoning and permit battles (and residential complaints about construction projects) to a bare minimum, allowing the company the right to choose where it will (and won’t) deploy service, and making sure people will actually buy the service are all the key factors for fiber expansion.

AT&T said much the same thing when it vaguely promised a gigabit fiber network to compete with Google in Austin.

Google may have unintentionally handed their competitors a new carrot: deregulate us in return for fancy fiber upgrades that customers crave.

In perspective: CenturyLink's fiber trial will only impact about 12% of metropolitan Omaha's population, primarily in and near affluent West Omaha.

In perspective: CenturyLink’s fiber trial will only impact about 12% of the total population of metropolitan Omaha, primarily in and near affluent West Omaha.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/WOWT Omaha CenturyLink Gigabit 5-1-13.flv

WOWT in Omaha spent less than a minute reporting on CenturyLink’s forthcoming gigabit fiber trial. A spring snowstorm preoccupied most of Omaha’s media instead.  (1 minute)

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Why Google Chose Provo as the Next Google Fiber City

google fiberTo many, Provo, Utah might seem an unusual choice to follow on the heels of Google’s earlier announcement its gigabit fiber network was headed to Austin, Tex.

Provo is only the third largest community in Utah — Salt Lake City and West Valley City are bigger — and the community already has a fiber network called iProvo. So why build another one?

Google won’t have to.

But first some background:

iProvo was envisioned a decade ago as a public-private partnership — a fiber to the home network owned by the public with private service providers using it to sell broadband and other services . iProvo taught an early lesson about municipal broadband — large cable and phone companies routinely boycott participation in any network they do not own and control themselves.

In 2003, the president of Qwest’s Utah division made clear their intentions: “Fiber optic’s capabilities are way more than what most consumers need in their homes. Why provide a Rolls Royce when a Chevrolet will do?”

Comcast, the dominant local cable operator, also “went ballistic” according to former mayor Lewis Billings.

iProvo can be yours for just $1.

iProvo can be yours for just $1.

“One hired a PR firm and a telemarketing company to make calls to citizens,” Billings recalled. “They also placed full-page ads and ultimately hired people to picket City Hall. It was a bruising fight.  My favorite picket sign had a piece of telephone wire taped to it and read that I and one of my key staff members were, ‘a Twisted Pair.’”

With both Qwest and Comcast wanting nothing to do with the project, smaller independent ISPs had to fill the gap. It was a difficult sell, particularly because Qwest and Comcast blanketed Provo residents with a misinformation campaign about the network and pitched highly aggressive retention offers to keep customers with the phone and cable company. iProvo has been in financial distress ever since.

Former Provo city councilwoman Cynthia Dayton remembers being on the council when iProvo was approved and believes the public-private network was a decade before its time.

“Ten years ago it was worth the vote on iProvo,” she told the Daily Herald. It was one of the most difficult decisions but it was for the future.”

More than a year ago, Google noticed the city of Provo issued a request for proposals on what to ultimately do with iProvo.

Google became interested because Provo is seen as a city with hundreds of technology start-up companies and maintains a vibrant tech hub. The city also ranked highly for the enormous value it places on connectivity and community — something the approval and construction of iProvo demonstrated.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/Provo Google Fiber 4-13.mp4

Why Provo? Google considers the city’s rankings. (1 minute)

iprovo_logo.jpg.pagespeed.ce.grIF_VVvuACity officials and Google executives began quietly talking more than a year ago about Google buying the public-private network. A key selling point: the city was willing to let the operation go for a steal — just $1.00. In return, Google promised to invest in and upgrade the network to reach the two-thirds of Provo homes it does not reach. Google says iProvo will need technology upgrades in the office, but the existing fiber strands already running throughout the city are service-ready today.

Val Hale, President of the Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce, said a quick “back of the envelope” estimate put Google’s anticipated investment in iProvo network upgrades at $18 million, according to the Deseret News. Unfortunately, taxpayers will still need to pay off about $40 million in bonds the city accumulated for iProvo’s initial construction costs.

Curtis

Curtis

Current Mayor John Curtis says he has made the best out of a difficult situation.

“We have maximized what we have here today,” said Curtis. “It’s about maximizing what we have. I believe in the long-term it will pay dividends many times greater than what we paid into it, but it’s going to take a while to realize that dream.”

Google promised free gigabit Internet service to 25 local public institutions including schools, hospitals, and libraries. Residential customers will be expected to pay $70 a month for 1,000Mbps service or get 5Mbps broadband service for free up to seven years.

Google’s investment in Provo is anticipated to be far lower than in Austin and Kansas City — cities where it needs to build a considerable amount of fiber infrastructure from scratch. With existing fiber already in place in Provo, Google’s gigabit service will be available by the end of this year, at least six months faster than in Austin.

With reduced construction costs, Google will only ask new customers for a $30 activation fee, far less than the $300 Google will ask Austin and Kansas City residents to pay if they do not sign a multi-year service contract or only want basic 5Mbps service.

Google sees the opportunity to use its fiber network in an ongoing effort to embarrass other broadband providers into investing in speed upgrades.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/KSL Salt Lake City Google Fiber Coming to Provo 4-17-13.flv

KSL in Salt Lake City reports Google Fiber is coming to Provo. Last year Google began talking with the city to acquire its iProvo municipal fiber network.  (3 minutes)

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/KSTU Salt Lake City Google Fiber coming to Provo 4-17-13.flv

KSTU in Salt Lake City reports taxpayers are still on the hook for around $40 million in bond payments to cover the construction costs of iProvo. But Google Fiber will stop other Internet providers from “cheating everyone” says one local Provo resident.  ”[Other ISPs] give you the slowest connection possible and charge you a ridiculous amount for it,” said Haley Cano. (4 minutes)

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/KTVX Salt Lake City Google Fiber in Provo 4-17-13.mp4

KTVX in Salt Lake had some trouble navigating the difference between a gigabit and a gigabyte, and confused what Google services will be sold and which will be available for free in this report, but the ABC affiliate covered the unveiling with both city and Google company officials on hand.  (2 minutes)

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/KTVX Salt Lake City Google Fiber Details in Provo 4-18-13.mp4

This morning, KTVX did a better job in this interview with the mayor of Provo and Google’s Matt Dunne, who says Google believes speed matters and current ISPs simply don’t offer enough.  A key factor to attract Google’s interest is a close working relationship with the cities that want the service. (2 minutes)

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