GigaPowerAustin, Texas will soon be a competitive hotbed for ultra high speed broadband. AT&T announced today their U-verse with GigaPower FTTH network is live there and will begin offering 300 Mbps service, soon to be capable of 1 Gbps. Google is in the process of building Google Fiber in Austin as well. Time Warner Cable hasn’t announced gigabit speeds for its broadband offer in Austin yet, but they will blanket the city with Wi-Fi access, hoping it provides some differentiation for their broadband offer.

As for AT&T, about four neighborhoods in Austin including French Place, Mueller, Zilker and Onion Creek are live for the service today and AT&T intends to bring the service to additional neighborhoods in 2014 and beyond. AT&T is following a similar approach established by Google in Kansas City, where neighborhoods can influence the decision of where they deploy U-verse GigaPower through a voting process at www.att.com/gigapower.

AT&T Internet Preferences
AT&T is taking another page from Google with the offer. If subscribers allow AT&T to capture and analyze their Web browsing information and search history for the purpose of serving them relevant ads and offers (sound familiar?), they will receive a reduced cost of $70 per month for today’s 300 Mbps service, which will be upgraded to 1 Gbps in the future at no additional cost. If customers add U-verse IPTV, the cost rises to $120/month.

If they opt out of what AT&T is calling AT&T Internet Preferences, the monthly cost for broadband goes to $99. Interesting approach and something to watch.

Head Start for AT&T?
In prep for Google’s coming offer, AT&T is trying to lock up subscribers by offering HD service and HBO and HBO GO for that $120 bundled price, with a one year commitment and guaranteed at that price for 3 years. They are also waiving all equipment and installation costs. Additionally, if you are an AT&T wireless subscriber, you get 50 GB of cloud storage at no additional cost.

I’m somewhat surprised not to see more integration with AT&T wireless, which would seem to be their best potential competitive advantage over Google. But maybe we’ll see more of that to come. AT&T does seem to have a considerable lead over Google, who will take a year or two before they are in a position to effectively compete. For Google, this will be interesting to watch. They did not have such a direct competitive battle on their hands in Kansas City, like they now will in Austin.

Some will argue what’s taking place in Austin was the plan all along with Google Fiber. Get incumbent ISPs to start offering next generation broadband, which ultimately means consumers use more Google powered services like YouTube, Chromecast, and Google Apps. In some regards, Google may win regardless of whether they are the ISP or not.