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The Next Big Fiber Showdown: Austin 230

Posted by timothy
from the att-dsl-sure-leaves-me-unimpressed dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "Google might have big plans to wire America with high-speed broadband, but at least one carrier isn't willing to let Google Fiber have a free run: AT&T has announced that it will deploy a '100 percent fiber' network in Austin, Texas, capable of delivering speeds of up to 1GB per second. That location is auspicious, given how Google's already decided to make Austin the next city to receive Google Fiber. Whereas Google plans on connecting Austin households to its network in mid-2014, however, AT&T promises to start deploying its own high-speed solution in December. But there's a few significant catches. First, AT&T's service will initially roll out to 'tens of thousands of customer locations throughout Austin' (according to a press release), which is a mere fraction of the city's 842,592 residents; second, AT&T has offered no roadmap for expanding beyond that initial base; and third, despite promises that the service will roll out in December, the carrier has yet to choose the initial neighborhoods for its expansion. Could this be a case of a carrier freaking out about a new company's potential to disrupt its longtime business?"
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The Next Big Fiber Showdown: Austin

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  • competition (Score:5, Insightful)

    by asmkm22 (1902712) on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @11:50AM (#45004199)

    Funny what a little competition can do. Now if only this stuff could happen in other areas.

    • Re:competition (Score:4, Informative)

      by Xicor (2738029) on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @11:58AM (#45004299)
      att wont be able to compete. google is charging the same price for gb internet as att charges everyone for 20mbit. rolling out fiber and then charging 100$ more wont do anything to compete with google. that being said, maybe eventually att will wisen up and start offering fiber in other cities at a competitive rate (before google gets there), but i doubt that seriously, since att milks their customers for money.
      • by jandrese (485)
        Carriers always lower prices when a competitor moves into an area. That's standard operating procedure, if you don't undercut them right from the start they might gain a foothold in the area. Prices will of course shoot back up once the competitor leaves or goes under. Competition is rough on incumbent carriers, which is why they're so nice to each other in general and avoid competing as much as possible.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by BoRegardless (721219)

      Free market competition in almost all cases, except for absolutely needed government actions, always results in intense competition and ultimately the lowest cost that a good provider can supply and maintain. Government has no interest in providing the best at the lowest cost if they run a service.

      Any time the government gets involved they warp the competition one way or another with politcal ends and increase the overhead cost. Cable TV should have always been open to multiple providers so people could o

      • Re:competition (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @12:14PM (#45004489)

        Having multiple sets of fiber maintained is more expensive than a single set though. I know trash service provided by private companies is far less efficient, much more labor and much more fuel as trucks from multiple companies travel down the same road. If government laid the fiber and treated like a roadway (covering just the last mile) it'd have less cost than google and AT&T competing, then they could compete on the other many miles, with many other companies, because now right-of-ways aren't an issue.

      • by Jawnn (445279)

        Free market competition in almost all cases, except for absolutely needed government actions, always results in intense competition and ultimately the lowest cost that a good provider can supply and maintain. Government has no interest in providing the best at the lowest cost if they run a service.

        Any time the government gets involved they warp the competition one way or another with politcal ends and increase the overhead cost. Cable TV should have always been open to multiple providers so people could order what they want from whatever carrier or carriers.

        Patently and demonstrably false.
        For example, where electrical service is provided by a public utility district, rates are almost always lower and the service almost always better (more reliable). The reason for this is simple - the PUD operates at the pleasure of the voters who elect it's board of directors, not at the pleasure of share-holders. The same would apply to broadband service, You are right though, that cable TV should have been open to whatever carrier wanted to play. Same goes for broadband.

      • by smaddox (928261)

        I live in Austin, where we have municipal run electric utility, Austin Energy, which is one of the cheapest in Texas. In addition, the profits (which are over $100 million a year) go to funding other city services and projects. There are certainly wasteful government-run organisations in the world, but not all government-run organisations are wasteful. Please take your faith-based and ideology-based opinions elsewhere.

      • by sjames (1099)

        So why do the few municipal ISPs that manage to survive against state legislatures being bought by corporate interests and the inevitable lawsuits from those same corporations then end up providing several times the service for a lower price?

        As for cable, they now have Dish and DirecTV and U-Verse to contend with and yet the prices haven't fallen and bundling is still the norm.

        In theory, in a market consisting of individuals and a multitude of businesses not much bigger than the individuals, the market work

      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        Free market competition in almost all cases, except for absolutely needed government actions, always results in intense competition and ultimately the lowest cost that a good provider can supply and maintain.

        Then please explain all the monopolies that had to be broken up in oil, rail, steel, meat packing, telephones, shipping, sugar, tobacco, grain elevators, and a bunch of other stuff I don't recall off the top of my head.

        All of those monopolies were created during the freest of free market times in American history.

        Government has no interest in providing the best at the lowest cost if they run a service.

        Yea, the postal service and federal parks suck.

    • Something funny is right, but the people who are doing it are the only one who know the plan. I was wondering about what the heck is going on in web hosting and was going to post an article about that. I just got a new host for $10 a year and I see GoDaddy is doing a $1.99 special and is this companies consolidating by running others into the ground? There is a game of monopoly going on and I just hope I don't land on Boardwalk.
      As far as the build out of bandwidth , there is much more going on there than
    • Re:competition (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Djyrn (3011821) on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @12:17PM (#45004513)
      Google wins either way. Best case scenario is if 1GB starts to roll out everywhere ahead of Google Fiber. That way they don't have to muck about with the infrastructure, and they still get people using their services at the higher rate.
    • Digging duplicate trenches to lay parallel fiber is wasteful. That's why utilities are "natural monopolies". Getting economic efficiency in such situations usually requires regulation or community ownership.

      • And who cares? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Okian Warrior (537106) on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @12:58PM (#45004999) Homepage Journal

        Digging duplicate trenches to lay parallel fiber is wasteful. That's why utilities are "natural monopolies". Getting economic efficiency in such situations usually requires regulation or community ownership.

        In the magical land of the oompa-loompas, where Willie Wonka is a benevolent dictator and everything is done for the betterment of their society, this would be important.

        Any real issue has arguments both for and against. It's like a mathematical function with many variables, and you have to choose the combination of variables that gives the function the highest value.

        In this case the highest value is utility for society, and the variables are the amount of weight you assign to each argument.

        Specifically in this case, we assign little weight to "being wasteful because we're digging two trenches" because even though that argument is valid, the utility to society is much lower if we let that consideration drive our choice.

        Yeah, I'd *like* to not have to waste effort to have good things, but that's not the world we live in.

        Having fiber is more valuable than the expense of digging an extra trench.

        • It's not just wasteful, it's generally subsidized by the community (ie. traffic delays).

          • There's a whole lot of soft shoulder out there. And if you really wanted to go there, then the government could have just laid conduit and rented space in it to companies. Then it matters less what's run. To make it easier, they could also lay the pull cables ahead of time.
        • by Bengie (1121981)

          Having fiber is more valuable than the expense of digging an extra trench.

          But the natural monopoly is keeping that from happening, especially when those trenches cross both public and private property. Want to build your $1bil network? My land is in your way? Pay me $100k or your network won't get built.

        • by smaddox (928261)

          Are you one of the extreme libertarians that think all road systems should be privatized, and we should have 3 highways to everywhere with competing tolls (which would inevitably be higher than the tax cost of building one highway)? Because if you aren't, I don't see how you think the corollary for internet access is preferable.

      • by kimvette (919543)

        It works for electricity and methane because new electricity or natural gas technology and major standards changes ever require upgrades; they just need to replace pipelines and cables as they rot or snap, and are relatively low maintenance and remarkably reliable, all things considered. The same is not true of telecommunications.

    • by TWiTfan (2887093)

      It's not competition. Likely, AT&T is just doing a token deployment to either justify some attempt to bribe their way into a local monopoly or some sort of legal challenge. AT&T, like most broadband ISP's, isn't interested in competition. They just want to grab the monopoly before someone else does.

    • I just wish AT&T would offer me something higher than 6 mbps down and .5 mbps up where I am. I don't even need speeds fifty to a hundred times faster. I'd settle for ten times faster and I'd pay twice as much as I am now happily.

      Please, any paid AT&T folks in PR who are reading this, pass this along. Don't just pamper the Austinites. Give us some love everywhere else too!
    • by Jawnn (445279)

      Funny what a little competition can do...

      Which is to say, "not very damned much". Please... Rolling out fiber to the home for a tiny percentage of the customers in a small market like Austin is hardly a game changer when it comes to the mythical free market for broadband providers. Then there's the peering arrangements. Here's betting that AT&T will be far from "neutral" when providing bandwidth to connections outside of their own ring. This is little more than a PR stunt, or perhaps an experiment to see "what the market will bear".

    • by sjames (1099)

      Get a half decent internet connection to 1% or so of a single city!

  • 300Mbps for $?$?$ (Score:4, Informative)

    by Sponge Bath (413667) on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @11:55AM (#45004253)
    Initial speed will be 300Mbps, of unknown cost, probably with the current 250GB monthly cap, available in few unspecified areas... oh boy.
    • Re:300Mbps for $?$?$ (Score:4, Informative)

      by Sponge Bath (413667) on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @11:58AM (#45004291)
      I forgot the link showing the initial rollout [theverge.com] will only be 300Mbps.
    • by timeOday (582209)
      300 Mbps isn't dogmeat! You "only" need 20-45 Mbps to stream 4k video.
      • by citizenr (871508)

        300Mbit is something you can get with ordinary Docsis 3.0 (400/100Mbit), no need for fiber.

        • by timeOday (582209)
          If you had fiber to the curb and that 300 Mbit coax was shared between just a small handful of homes, it would still be very nice. If Comcast did that for $40/month in response to full fiber-to-the-home for $65/mo, for example, I would probably go cheap.

          I am really curious what gigabit Internet means, in practice. At worst it could be like living on a 6-lane freeway that extends only the length of your driveway to a dirt road. Moreover the TOS restrictions against using it to run a "server" (whatever th

          • by Urza9814 (883915)

            I am really curious what gigabit Internet means, in practice. At worst it could be like living on a 6-lane freeway that extends only the length of your driveway to a dirt road. Moreover the TOS restrictions against using it to run a "server" (whatever that means) really suck.

            I have a 50/25 FiOS package. It usually tests at around 56Mbps down and 26Mbps up (Yeah, HIGHER than rated. I was shocked, but I ain't complaining!)

            Well-seeded torrents are a blast. I can download an HD movie in five minutes flat. I downloaded two long (5 seasons or so) TV series and two movies yesterday in about four hours. Fantastic. Linux ISOs from decent mirrors aren't a ton better than a solid cable/DSL connection, downloaded a Debian image yesterday, I think it was 1.3GB, took around 20 minutes. YouTu

            • by Luyseyal (3154)

              How fast is your email? I keed, I keed.

              I hate those comparison graphics where email is listed as a service for measuring speed. Uhhhhh

              -l

      • by Pope (17780)

        300 Mbps isn't dogmeat! You "only" need 20-45 Mbps to stream 4k video.

        And there's *so much* 4k video available, :rolleyes:

        • by timeOday (582209)
          Why would content be produced when there is no way to deliver it to most people? I think it's pretty obvious that Internet streaming will lead the way in 4k video distribution. Heck, I'm not a huge fan but I would really love to watch a football game on a 60", 60 fps 4K OLED display. People will pay good money for that.

          I'm even hopeful that something like OnLive (i.e. playing games rendered remotely) might become finally feasible.

      • by TheSync (5291)

        20 Mbps 4K with H.264 encoding may have a resolution of 3840x2160 pixels, but it will not have 3840x2160 pixels worth of detail, unless nothing is moving on the screen.

        I can honestly tell you that the best live H.264 encoders in the world right now need 100 Mbps to deliver 3840x2160 60p content that looks good.

        24p movies get equivalent quality at 10-20% cut in bandwidth, but it is going to take HEVC to achieve good 4K in 40-50 Mbps.

        Of course that won't stop anyone from watching really crappy quality 4K movi

        • by timeOday (582209)
          I was consulting this article [iis.net] that says 4k content will shift to H.265. (Although it also claims H.264 4k video would be fine at 45 Mbit/s, so who knows).

          Anyway, 100 Mbit is still less than 300 Mbit, and Internet streaming is surely able to be upgraded to new encodings more easily than cable or satellite broadcasts, for example even if only a few people have new sets that support the encoding.

  • Why (Score:5, Funny)

    by interkin3tic (1469267) on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @11:58AM (#45004293)
    What is AT&T's plan here?

    CEO: "Gentlemen, google's competitive service challenges our freedom, our very way of life, our absurd profits. No longer will we be able to abuse customers and laugh as they threaten to leave us for better competitors, because there WILL BE a better option"
    All: "GASP!"
    CEO: "We have only one option. Stop them in Austin Texas. Throw everything we've got there. Be better than google."
    Member of the audience: "But Sir, how can we keep getting monopoly-level profits for doing very little if we do that?"
    CEO : (closes eyes) "We... can't."
    All: "NNOOOO!!"
    CEO: "But fear not! If we stop them in Austin Texas, they will give up expanding elsewhere! ... Probably? They'll just assume we're going to do it anywhere they announce next and will all hang themselves, at which point we can quadruple the costs for the austin fiber and everywhere else."
    All: "AMAZING!!!"
    • by timeOday (582209)
      AT&T's plan is millions of people paying $100/mo wireless plans for their iPhones. I say the party now most threatened by high-speed fixed infrastructure is Comcast, not AT&T.
      • by FSWKU (551325)

        I say the party now most threatened by high-speed fixed infrastructure is Comcast, not AT&T.

        Actually, it's Time Warner in Austin...which is far, FAR worse than Comcast, sadly.

        • I've never had Time Warner but I've got to say I can't even imagine how that is possible.
          • Anecdotally:

            Having experienced both, I've concluded the following:

            Time Warner is worse with the technology. Slower speeds, crappier equipment, tends to oversell bandwidth more. You'll hate them for their product.

            Comcast sucks more on the business side. Billing, technical support, etc. You'll hate them for their people.

            So long as your equipment and connection is good, Comcast is the way to go. Woe unto you should something go wrong, though. You'll call up Comcast and not only won't the problem be fixed, they

        • by afidel (530433)

          Yep, Comcast were the ONLY ones who made sense when it came to throttling, they basically said during congestion the highest n% of users would get throttled to maintain QoS, if there was no congestion on the headend then no throttling and once a certain percentage of users on a headend were in the throttled category they would reconfigure the headend and backhauls to alleviate the congestion (basically use smaller segments so each user gets a bigger percentage of the total pipes capacity). This is how a rea

    • by TWiTfan (2887093)

      What is AT&T's plan here?

      I bet they're just trying to make a grab for the Austin monopoly before Google gets it. Then once they get it, it will be the same old shitty AT&T service they offer everywhere, with just a few token fiber deployments in a few neighborhoods. Austin gets screwed out of Google Fiber, a few city councilmen walk away with nice bribes, and the consumer gets fucked.

  • Remember that disaster in a can? This was during the Big Deal when DSL was the trend maker. The problem with DSL or any ISP service over telecom copper needs to be operating at or on spec. Most of the locations where Pronto was slated to roll out on had crap copper. So guess where the money went? Almost all of it got sunk into infrastructure improvement and service roll out to high income, high density areas, leaving the blue collars and rural folks high and dry.

    Take a guess where the FTH is going to be ro

  • by rahvin112 (446269) on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @12:04PM (#45004367)

    They haven't decided where to install because Google hasn't. It will be predatory installation. That means they will install the system only where Google does and will only offer competitive prices to those who can get Google service. They do this to anyone that tries to overbuild.

  • by Dega704 (1454673) on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @12:06PM (#45004389)
    This sort of thing was Google's intent all along; not directly competing with ISPs, but doing just enough to light a fire under their seats and demonstrate how full of it they are about the cost of network infrastructure.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      The other interesting thing here is that, at least in my city, there is a "comparable performance clause" in the agreement between the city and AT&T/Time Warner for the Phone/Cable monopoly.

      It basically states that if another area gets quantifiable better speeds/options, they need to justify why it's economically infeasable to provide the same level of service in my community or they risk losing their license to a competitor who can. There are some limitations (like the deployment being in the same stat

  • I have a few observations to make.

    1) "So what" that AT&T is only going to roll out this service to "tens of thousands of customer locations throughout Austin". Google is not promising to do anything more, with a plan to deploy it to select neighborhoods based on expressed interests from residents in those neighborhoods. The real question is whether AT&T tries to roll out AT&T fiber to the same neighborhoods or if they pick other neighborhoods. I would prefer the latter just so there's more high-

  • Why does Austin get everything before Portland? By the time I get my fiber, all those f'ing hipsters will be saying, "I had fiber before it was cool."

    We do have Verizon FIOS out here in the metro area, but it's way the heck out west by Beavertron, presumably because of Intel. East of the Willy, the choices are Qwest (CenturyLink?) DSL which is slow as F, or Comcast, which is fast and reliable, but with a little more competition, I'm sure they could afford to drop the price by a few bucks.

    Oh, and spe
    • As opposed to those hipsters in Portland? It's like watching 2 hens fight for a coc. But don't feel too bad, Austin is so wealthy douche now they couldn't be hipster if Andy Warhol came back from the dead and slapped them.
    • They likely pay a company to do the mailers for them, which doesn't have access to any of their DBs. At most, they'll include a list of addresses to exclude based on current customers, but most don't even bother to do that.
  • by ThatsNotPudding (1045640) on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @12:19PM (#45004527)
    In AT&T's Dallas HQ parking garage, you can get four bars in every elevator as it's critcally important all their execs be in constant contact.

    But for their customers? Ha! This will be just more cobbled-together Uverse hybrid garbage.
  • It would be hard to believe that their long track record of cost-cutting employee moves and incompetence will be reversed in few months. When I was at college, we could not believe the dregs they send in for network work.
  • Will they have better TV bit rates and more streams in the same areas as well?

  • Good luck to them (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mabonus (185893) on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @12:26PM (#45004601)

    I really enjoyed calling up to cancel after Google connected our house.

    "Why are you cancelling?"
    "I found a better service."
    "Can I ask what?"
    "Sure, I found 1,0000 Mbps for $70/mo"
    "Well. I can offer you 14Mbps for $40/mo"

    They followed up with a letter just yesterday saying how they were surprised I canceled since they have such a great service and offering a $300 gift card for re-upping. As far as I can tell they have no strategy for dealing with competing fiber rollouts and Austin doesn't sound like one either.

  • die in a fire at&t (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dan667 (564390) on Tuesday October 01, 2013 @12:43PM (#45004803)
    They had their chance to take care of me as a paying Customer. At this point, no matter what at&t or time warner do at this point I will dump them the first opportunity to get Google Fiber.
  • A press release is not a fiber rollout. I seriously doubt they have any genuine plans for an actual fiber roll-out, except possibly to the most lucrative neighborhoods.

    Also, this mealy-mouthed "up to 1Gb" sets off my bullshit meter, and leads me to suspect that AT&T are going to try and do this on the cheap. OTOH, GFiber starts at 1Gb, and there's plenty of upside built in to their backbone.

    What I would be very careful of is the agreements AT&T manages to strong-arm out of Austin in "exchang

  • When most of the country doesn't have fiber, does it really make sense for providers to split a relatively small market like Austin? I mean, if I'm running AT&T and Google announces a rollout in Austin, I'll do my initial rollout in, I dunno, Dallas (assuming Dallas doesn't already have fiber). I don't see any reason to actually compete until all the higher density areas have at least one provider.
  • It'll cost $500/month to use, to make it's other plans still seem like good deals.

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