While there's absolutely no doubt that Google Fiber has been a positive thing for the industry, critics have singled out two problems with Google's ultra-fast offering. One, the company backed off of open access promises
that would have allowed multiple companies to come in and truly compete over the infrastructure. Two, whereas old franchise models aimed for uniformity (the very reason many of you even have cable at this moment) Google's deployment model heavily celebrates cherry picking, or only deploying services to the most profitable areas.
Google countered this somewhat early on in Kansas City with Google Fiber "rallies
" determined to help the community decide which areas got service first. Still, it soon became clear that lower-income communities still found themselves lagging
for attention, with wealthier neighborhoods doing things like hiring their door to door salesmen to improve their chances. It's just a variation on the same problem of selective deployment.
For obvious reasons AT&T clearly loves cherry picking, CEO Randall Stephenson telling investors this week
that they'd just love to offer 1 Gbps to people, but government requirements make that impossible (not true, but more on that later). Stephenson also argued that now that Google has made cherry picking more acceptable, deployment of 1 Gbps lines nationwide will surely pick up speed:
"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....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.
Blaming the mean 'ole government for AT&T's failure to deliver cutting edge broadband services is an excuse that simply no longer holds water.
There's a few problems with that scenario. To prepare for their entry into the TV business, AT&T lobbyists nearly a decade ago started going state to state passing new franchise "reform" laws
that stripped away any build out requirements, as well as consumer protections
. In many states the new laws, actually written by AT&T
, even gave AT&T the upper hand at dodging eminent domain rules.
Given that regulatory capture has reached the point where AT&T is actively writing the laws governing their business operations in many states, there's nothing stopping them from offering 1 Gbps services, and blaming the problem on government restrictions is high comedy. AT&T could easily strike 1 Gbps deals with any number of eager towns at any time with the exact same perks Google is getting -- but didn't.
Long placing investor interests above customer satisfaction or product quality, AT&T has cut corners on fixed line network investment at every possible opportunity despite
unprecedented deregulation on both the state and federal level. As a result, AT&T fails to even offer U-Verse speeds that match cable -- much less Google Fiber. Blaming the mean 'ole government for AT&T's failure to deliver cutting edge broadband services is an excuse that simply no longer holds water. The reason you're not seeing cheaper, faster speeds? A lack of serious competition that forces AT&T to do so. Full stop.
And while Stephenson is apparently already putting AT&T in the 1 Gbps club right alongside Google, there's still no indication that the company will deploy 1 Gbps speeds in any serious way. AT&T's recent promise to meet Google on the field of battle in Austin with 1 Gbps rang a little hollow, given the weaselly-worded announcement
contained plenty of wiggle room, and was more show than substance. As a general rule of thumb you should believe in affordable 1 Gbps service from AT&T only when you're actually able to order it -- and not a second before.