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AT&T to chase Google Fiber with its own gigabit internet in Austin

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AT&T (stock)
AT&T (stock)

Google Fiber is still barely a blip on the internet landscape, but it's shaken up the largely stagnant world of wired broadband. Not long after Google announced that its gigabit internet service would be coming to Austin, Texas, AT&T has followed up with its own announcement: it intends to build a competing high-speed fiber optic network that could also reach gigabit speeds. AT&T says the expansion is part of a larger operation called Project VIP, a long-term upgrade program from 2012 that largely involves building out LTE and expanding the reach of its current broadband offerings.

This isn't the first time AT&T has tried to follow in Google's footsteps. When the first Fiber markets launched in Kansas City, AT&T and Time Warner started talks with city officials, trying to reach a "parity agreement" that would give them the same incentives Google got for building ultra-fast internet. The Austin expansion is no different. "AT&T's expanded fiber plans in Austin anticipate it will be granted the same terms and conditions as Google," it says in a statement, "on issues such as geographic scope of offerings, rights of way, permitting, state licenses, and any investment incentives." There's certainly a consumer competition aspect at play here, but this announcement is likely also spurred by the simple desire not to lose out on any perks now that Google has paved the way.

Competition for high-speed internet is an unmitigated good, but AT&T has a long ways to go before it's a viable Fiber alternative. The company's U-verse service currently advertises download speeds of 24Mbps compared to Google's 1000Mbps, and its competitor Time Warner has warned that consumers simply don't want gigabit networks. AT&T hasn't announced any kind of timeline, and current customers in Austin probably shouldn't get their hopes up yet.