Within hours of Google announcing that Austin, Texas would be the next lucky recipient of its Google Fiber initiative, AT&T released a statement indicating that it was willing to build a high-speed broadband network in the city, too.
“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,” read the statement.
But there’s a not-so-slight catch: AT&T wants whatever conditions Google received from the city of Austin: “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.”
Google plans on connecting homes to Austin to Google Fiber by mid-2014. “We believe the Internet’s next chapter will be built on gigabit speeds,” read an April 9 note on the Google Fiber Blog, “and we hope this new Google Fiber city will inspire communities across America to think about what ultrafast connectivity could mean for them.”
Google is in the process of wiring neighborhoods within Kansas City, the first recipient of Google Fiber. Last month, the company announced that neighboring Olathe, Kansas would also receive the network. That’s in addition to Google’s other public-infrastructure projects, including plans to blanket New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood with free Wi-Fi.
For months, people outside the company have debated about the scope of Google’s ambitions. Google itself has provided precious little guidance. “We are still in the very early stages of it,” Google CEO Larry Page told media and analysts during the company’s Jan. 22 earnings call, according to a transcript. “Obviously, we are going to a small number of people and so, but we are excited about the possibilities.”
But if Google Fiber keeps expanding, it could compel AT&T and other infrastructure providers to boost their broadband service and offer it on more reasonable terms—nothing like some competition to make things a little better for the collective customer base. In that sense, even if Google Fiber doesn’t expand into a national program (and imagine the costs of that), its existence will still do some larger good.