AT&T says it now is looking at building gigabit networks in up to 100 cities and towns nationwide, including 21 new major metropolitan areas.
The list of 21 candidate metropolitan areas includes Atlanta, Augusta, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Fort Worth, Fort Lauderdale, Greensboro, Houston, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, Oakland, Orlando, San Antonio, San Diego, St. Louis, San Francisco, and San Jose.
AT&T now has committed to or is exploring 25 metro areas for gigabit networks , including the networks AT&T is building in Austin and Dallas, and the likely networks in Raleigh-Durham and Winston-Salem, N.C.
The big change in AT&T’s thinking, aside from competition from Google Fiber, is the more flexible attitude being shown by municipalities, in particular the lack of “universal service” requirements.
Traditionally, municipalities had insisted that telecom and video entertainment networks had to be built to serve all households in the community. That began to change after passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which allowed new telecom service providers to serve only parts of a municipality, where there was demand.
Google Fiber made a breakthrough, winning the right to build only in neighborhoods where there was demand. AT&T now is using the same model to win rights to build gigabit networks in those areas where there is end user demand, and not “everywhere” within a town or city.
AT&T will proceed where it can work in “communities that have suitable network facilities, and show the strongest investment cases based on anticipated demand and the most receptive policies,” AT&T says.
That is a big change, as it is extremely unlikely Google Fiber or AT&T would have agreed to build such networks under the old rules.
That change in attitude, likely driven in some part by the emergence of new competitive local exchange carrier operations aimed largely at business customers, was given a decisive push by Google Fiber, even if the precedent already had been set by the Telecommunications Act and all the new contestants that entered new markets as a result of the new freedoms.
Though policy debates eventually will arise around such deployments, for the moment municipal leaders seem to have concluded that encouraging as much gigabit deployment as possible is worth some eventual controversy.
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