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AT&T's 'Expansion' of 1 Gbps to 100 Cities is a Big, Fat Bluff
by Karl Bode 02:11PM Monday Apr 21 2014
AT&T today announced that the company is "eyeing" 100 potential target cities as locations they may deploy faster 1 Gbps "Gigapower" service. According to the company's press release, this "major initiative" will target 100 "candidate cities and municipalities" across 21 metropolitan areas nationwide. Those users could then get AT&T's $70-$100 per month 1 Gbps service, currently only available in a very small portion of Austin, Texas.

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Before you get too excited, you need to understand that this is a bluff of immense proportion. It's what I affectionately refer to as "fiber to the press release."

Ever since Google Fiber came on the scene, AT&T's response has been highly theatrical in nature. What AT&T would have the press and public believe is that they're engaged in a massive new deployment of fiber to the home service. What's actually happening is that AT&T is upgrading a few high-end developments where fiber was already in the ground (these users were previously capped at DSL speeds) and pretending it's a serious expansion of fixed-line broadband.

It's not. At the same time AT&T is promising a massive expansion in fixed line broadband, they're telling investors they aren't spending much money on the initiative, because they aren't. AT&T's focus is on more profitable wireless. "Gigapower" is a show pony designed to help the company pretend they're not being outmaneuvered in their core business by a search engine company.

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The press release admits as much if you look carefully. "This expanded fiber build is not expected to impact AT&T’s capital investment plans for 2014," notes AT&T. That's what they noted last year, and will surely say the same thing next year. In fact, AT&T's been reducing their fixed-line CAPEX each year. What kind of major 1 Gbps broadband expansion doesn't hit your CAPEX? One that's either very tiny, or simply doesn't exist.

"Similar to previously announced metro area selections in Austin and Dallas and advanced discussions in Raleigh-Durham and Winston-Salem, communities that have suitable network facilities, and show the strongest investment cases based on anticipated demand and the most receptive policies will influence these future selections and coverage maps within selected areas," notes the company.

In short, if your city plays nice and gives AT&T what they want legislatively (namely gut consumer protections requiring they keep serving DSL users they don't want so they can focus on more profitable wireless) you'll get 1 Gbps fiber to a few high-end developments and apartment buildings. As an added bonus, your local politician can hold a lovely cord-cutting ceremony where he or she pretends to be encouraging the broadband networks of tomorrow (while in reality doing the exact opposite).

You can understand AT&T's executive and marketing logic to a degree. Google received an absolute blast of positive press coverage for their recent announcement that they might deploy Google Fiber to 34 cities in 9 major metro areas. Countless news outlets didn't understand what Google was even announcing, and stated breathlessly that all these cities would be getting fiber. The free marketing Google receives for what really is a very small actual deployment is staggering.

"This expanded fiber build is not expected to impact AT&T’s capital investment plans for 2014."
Granted, while there is a heavy theatrical component to Google Fiber and its few thousand actual users, Google's interest really is in driving competition and helping cities build business plans -- even if Google doesn't deploy there themselves. In contrast, AT&T's interest is in pretending they're not a lumbering duopolist failing to keep pace, home to tens of millions of annoyed users on slow, capped and expensive DSL lines the company has no intention of upgrading anytime soon.

We're in the heart of the age of "fiber to the press release" and 1 Gbps mania, where all you need to do is simply mention 1 Gbps and you get a ticker-tape parade and a statue in the town square without having to deliver a single byte. AT&T's certainly counting on that reaction from the press and public. Look for specifics as to how many users will actually get 1 Gbps "Gigapower" service and at what cost to AT&T, and you'd be hard-pressed to find any whatsoever. That's because "Gigapower" is about 10% actual broadband, and 90% bologna.

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New York, NY
·Verizon FiOS

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reply to Jon Geb

Re: Already confirmed it won't be happening in my hood

What new "Project Name" will AT&T come up with next? First it was "Project Pronto". Then "Project Lightspeed". Now "Project VIP"?

I've been waiting for 768kb DSL to get upgraded (live in a big suburb of LA) for the last 10 YEARS, and AT&T hasn't budged. First was promised an RT would be installed in my neighborhood. Then, 7 years later, a VRAD. Now AT&T's gonna bring fiber?

This is a load of crap, and Karl's right for doubting AT&T. They're first to put out a press release, and then sit around on their butts counting their dollars.

I'm ready to dump AT&T for ANY competitor that offers faster speeds (yes, even Time Warner, if they ever roll out MAXX this year).