Another skirmish in the broadband wars

Written by on March 3, 2016 in Opinion with 0 Comments

broadbandYou can sympathise with almost anyone when it comes to rolling out broadband. AT&T and other ‘telcos’ have to roll out broadband on a nice, equal, regulated city-wide basis. Google – and others – have the luxury of either being able to hook onto what is already on poles or in the ground, or can pick and choose where they want to roll out broadband. Not surprisingly, they tend to choose rich neighbourhoods.

Recently, though, AT&T played Google at its own game. In Austin, Texas, both companies were looking to roll out broadband. As we said in an article last year, ‘both companies are targeting specific US cities with specific investment plans for fibre roll out. Google’s roll out in Kansas is much discussed, but they have also targeted Austin. So has AT&T. Google went to the city and asked to roll out fibre to specific areas – called ‘fibrehoods’ of course – and got the agreement of the city. This created the precedent for AT&T, who asked – and got – the same terms. Up to now, according to [AT&T CEO] Stephenson, if you wanted to roll out fibre in Austin, you had to fibre up the whole city. And this, he said, was too heavy an investment to make. By being able to target areas that will provide a quick return on investment, fibre can be rolled out incrementally, and cost effectively. Interestingly, AT&T is live in Austin, Google with less experience of rolling out fibre, is not.’

A similar thing is now happening in Louisville. AT&T is cross that the city is allowing Google to follow the ‘One Touch Make Ready’ (OTMR) rule whereby Google can use existing infrastructure. AT&T, for obvious reasons, says that that playing field is definitely not level. Google has headed for the moral high ground and taken to its blog, saying it is not fair on the honest burghers of Louisville to be denied the benefits of broadband (um, apart the AT&T offering presumably). AT&T is not having it and is suing the city, saying that such a ruling is not theirs to make.

It is yet another skirmish in a battle that will continue as regulated telcos try and persuade cities that allowing digital service providers to pick and choose is not exactly fair competition.

One has to wonder what our friend Mr Wheeler of the FCC would say about whether this is fair competition. Oddly, he is keeping quiet on the matter.

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Alex Leslie

About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .

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