GigaPowerAT&T took the unusual step late last night of announcing that it is “in advanced discussions” to bring a gigabit network to parts of the Triangle and Piedmont Triad regions of North Carolina. Normally companies like AT&T wait until a deal is iron-clad before announcing it.

The unusual announcement illustrates just how competitive the gigabit business is becoming – in the right markets, at least. Austin, Texas for example now has three network operators offering or planning to offer gigabit service and a fourth that has increased its broadband speeds to 300 Mbps. And in North Carolina, a local news outlet reported that eight service providers are negotiating with North Carolina Next-Generation Network (NCNGN) about the gigabit network.

One of these appears to be Google Fiber, which earlier this year mentioned Raleigh-Durham, N.C. and Charlotte, N.C. as two of the nine communities where it was considering building gigabit networks.

Google kicked off the gigabit gold rush when it announced plans a couple of years ago to deploy a gigabit network in Kansas City. At that time many people were skeptical about whether anyone needed such a high-speed connection but when the service was launched at a competitive price, that attitude began to change.

Google subsequently announced plans to deploy gigabit networks in Salt Lake City and Austin, prompting AT&T to announce that it also would build a network in Austin if it could get the same terms and conditions that Google was getting.

Perhaps Google’s greatest contribution to the gigabit network trend is the new thinking the company has brought to the nitty gritty details of broadband deployment. Google has been offering some attractive benefits to local municipalities such as discounts on connectivity for local government locations in exchange for concessions such as more lenient and speedier permitting.

Gig.U, an organization created to help bring gigabit networks to university communities, also has brought some new thinking to this area by, for example, creating a structure for sharing deployment best practices. The NCNGN, which includes several municipalities and universities, is a Gig.U participant and has been reviewing gigabit network proposals since some time last year.

AT&T’s NCNGN announcement highlights the benefits the company has pledged to gain a gigabit network deal, including:

  • Options for public Wi-Fi hotspots
  • Free AT&T U-verse with GigaPower at up to 100 public sites
  • An all-fiber network connected to up to 100 business buildings
  • Free 3 Mbps U-verse Internet service to 10 affordable housing complexes (up to 3,000 homes)
  • A pledge to work with leaders throughout the region to discuss how a fiber platform can advance the area’s technology ecosystem

CNET is reporting that AT&T’s agreement with NCNGN would not be exclusive, which means that the Triangle and Piedmont Triad regions could see a situation similar to that in Austin, where residents will have multiple choices for gigabit service. Our thanks to CNET for calling our attention to the local media reporting about AT&T’s GigaPower gigabit broadband plans.

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