To counter the PR hit from Google Fiber, AT&T has recently been proclaiming that it too is now offering 1 Gbps services under the company’s “Gigapower” brand — but pretending that Google has nothing to do with it. On the surface, it looks like AT&T is taking on Google blow for blow, and that this is a wonderful example of how competition works. And while that’s true up to a point, as we’ve discussed previously, AT&T’s offering is highly theatrical in nature. AT&T’s actually been slashing its fixed-line CAPEX each quarter, but is offering 1 Gbps speeds to a few, scattered high-end developments where fiber is already in the ground.
AT&T is then dressing this deployment up as something much larger than it actually is — something I affectionately refer to as “fiber to the press release.” Fiber to the press release not only lets a company pretend to be cutting-edge while skimping on actual infrastructure upgrades, AT&T uses these barely-existent fiber deployments as a sort of carrot on a stick for regulators, threatening to pull back on these already-skimpy investments if, say, regulators try to pass net neutrality rules or don’t approve its DirecTV merger plans.
But in the locations AT&T is deploying 1 Gbps services, it’s actually engaged in something that — in typical AT&T fashion — sets an even worse precedent. On the heels of scattered Gigapower deployments in Austin, AT&T this week announced it’s also offering symmetrical 1 Gbps speeds in portions of Kansas City. After the press release gets done insisting that AT&T “moved quickly to bring more competition to the Kansas City area” with a 1 Gbps offering for $70 a month, quadruple asterisked fine print explains that to actually get this $70 price point, you have to agree to opt-in to AT&T’s “Gigapower Internet Preferences” program:
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