Immediately following the official announcement that Google Fiber is coming to Austin, Texas, AT&T has announced that it is also “prepared” to invest in bringing gigabit speeds to Austin — so long as it is granted “the same terms and conditions as Google.”
As you may have guessed, AT&T hasn’t caught the innovation bug; this announcement instead appears to be a direct response to Google — even the company’s press release suggests that little to no talking has occurred between AT&T and local Austin government.
Considering how quickly AT&T jumped to make its own announcement, it’s not a leap to suggest that it probably could have built out gigabit infrastructure earlier, but there simply was no reason to do so, thanks to the way ISPs operate in the US.
The US is hardly leading the way in Internet speeds. In this country, ISP monopolies and duopolies exist in many areas, leaving consumers with very limited choice as to how they connect to the Web. With low levels of competition, ISPs have very little reason to innovate quickly. This is why US speeds average at 7.2 Mbps — “half those enjoyed in South Korea,” according to the San Francisco Gate.
We’ve already seen Google push competitors to raise speeds and lower prices in Kansas, and now AT&T is acting no differently in Austin. This is why Google Fiber is so important to the future of tech companies in the US: A nationwide rollout doesn’t even need to happen, so long as our ISPs are forced into catching up with the rest of the world.
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