Broadband Investment:
Not for the Faint of Heart

Posted by: Joan Marsh on August 30, 2016 at 11:01 am

July 2007: In exchange for FCC action on its demand for four specific “open access” conditions on the 700 MHz Upper C Block, Google commits to bidding $4.6B in the 700 MHz auction.

January 2008: When the auction closes, it becomes clear that wireless companies – not Google – shouldered the multi-billion dollar cost of the auction. As soon as the reserve was hit for the Upper C Block, Google took its billions and went back to Mountain View. Those same wireless companies spent billions more deploying those licenses to build the most advanced LTE networks in the world and give the U.S. leadership on LTE technologies.

April 2008: Google touts a new proposal for “Wi-Fi on Steroids.” Using newly-authorized 600 MHz white spaces, Google announces plans to have American consumers from Manhattan to North Dakota surfing the Web at gigabits-per-second speeds on new devices that will be available by the 2009 Holiday Season.

Today: There are less than 1,000 white space devices in the white space database and no real measure of broadband white space service. Google’s plans to blanket the country with broadband white spaces devices appear to be on hold.

February 2010: Google announces its intent to build ultra-high-speed fiber-fed broadband networks with plans to serve around five million subscribers in five years; 1100 cities respond to Google’s Request for Information in an effort to become a Google Fiber City.

Today: Google Fiber has deployed a fiber network in parts of seven out of the 1100 interested cities, but otherwise hits the pause button as Google Fiber learns something we’ve known for over a hundred years – deploying communications networks is hard and takes an enormous amount of time, money and skilled labor.

The Present: Google Fiber appears to be pivoting toward using wireless technologies to defray the costs of fiber deployment and to bridge the last mile gap between utility poles and customer homes. In June, Google acquired Webpass, a company that uses microwave technology to provide high-speed broadband services, mostly to commercial customers and to some residents in multi-unit buildings.

The Future?: Google Fiber discovers that wireless networks are expensive to build as well and learns that microwave broadband may work well in dense urban areas, particularly where supported by higher cost commercial services, but offers tougher economics when trying to serve residential customers.

Moral of the story: Building reliable, ubiquitous high-speed broadband connectivity is tough.   It takes an enormous commitment of capital and resources and a highly-skilled and capable work force. Yet AT&T has been at it for over 140 years. Between 2011 and 2015, while Google Fiber was cutting its teeth on fiber, AT&T invested over $140B in its network, building to over one million route miles of fiber globally and deploying ultra-high-speed fiber-fed GigaPower broadband services, reaching over a hundred cities. Along the way, AT&T spent over $13B with minority, women and disabled veteran-owned suppliers in 2015 alone.

Google Fiber will no doubt continue its broadband experiments, while coming up with excuses for its shortcomings and learning curves. It will also no doubt continue to seek favoritism from government at every level. Just last week Google Fiber threatened the Nashville City Council that it would stop its fiber build if an ordinance Google Fiber drafted wasn’t passed. Instead of playing by the same rules as everyone else building infrastructure, Google Fiber demands special treatment and indeed in some places is getting it, unfairly.

Yet, Google Fiber still complains it’s too hard…and costs too much…and takes too long… even as it’s reported that Google Fiber will now try to do all this with half its current workforce. Meanwhile, without excuses or finger-pointing, and without presenting ultimatums to cities in exchange for service, AT&T continues to deploy fiber and to connect our customers to broadband services in communities across the country. Welcome to the broadband network business, Google Fiber. We’ll be watching your next move from our rear view mirror. Oh, and pardon our dust.

Comments (43)

If At&t wasn’t such a greedy evil company (along with a few others) who is constantly getting slapped for bad behavior and uses it’s lawyers to save it from the FCC and FTC, we would not be begging Google to come into our neighborhoods.

Michael Smith August 31, 2016 at 9:44 am

AT&T, how is what they ask for different than you? Remember those laws that prevent Chattanooga from expanding their fiber services? Also, I still have 18Mb max speed via U-verse at my home. Why haven’t you deployed 1Gb here if you’re so interested in competition.

Jason Allen August 31, 2016 at 10:50 am

You have to be kidding me. Like AT$T’s deployment of fiber is actually being installed city wide in any of your Gigapower cities. Pardon your dust? You have to actually be moving forward to create dust.

John Bradley August 31, 2016 at 12:00 pm

Yes, att, it is sooo hard. Is that why you lobbied TN to stop others from building municipal fiber? If it isn’t so hard, why don’t you do it?

That’s rhetorical.

Joe August 31, 2016 at 12:24 pm

The irony in this post is amazingly high. Google Fiber demanding special treatment?! AT&T would never do that, would they? Hang on a bit, they would, and do.

Sour grapes?

Biff Webster August 31, 2016 at 12:54 pm

Hey AT&T… Instead of lobbying to stifle competition and providing crappy service to your customers you step up. Fix your infrastructure and show Google how to do it.

Eric Leftowski August 31, 2016 at 1:05 pm

Google got this fiber ball rolling so I’d argue they have done more for broadband than AT&T. It wasn’t until competition from Google arrived that incumbents decided to bless us with upgrades and even they, initially, could only muster 300Mbps service to “compete”.

Talk is cheap AT&T, your fastest offering to me is an asymmetrical 45/6Mbps. I’d love to have GigaPower and I’d be the first in line, I’d even help pay construction costs to bring it but I can’t find anyone at AT&T that will talk to me about it. GigaPower is allegedly underway in the city right next to me and available at an apartment building about 3 miles away but it seems even living less than 0.5 miles from a fiber fed VRAD isn’t close enough for my development.

AT&T may have been doing this for over 140 years but by the way cable companies run laps around AT&T and new competitors offering better services enter the market and capture the interest and imagination of the masses it looks like AT&T could still learn a few things, perhaps start with spending all that lobbying money on fiber.

Steven Demanett August 31, 2016 at 1:45 pm

While it is true that Google Fiber serves a very low number of people in the scope of internet subscribers, it has had a large positive effect on the industry.

Google Fiber has shown customers that they should expect speeds far in excess of the speeds made available to them. Also, service shouldn’t cost more than they are already paying.

While Google has had its issues, At&t and Comcast have had their own. Both At&t and Comcast lobby and use politics to their advantage at every opportunity. This isn’t some dirty tactic employed by Google alone. I live within city limits in the 3rd largest city in my state and I can’t get faster than about 1Mbps downstream from At&t. Even if I did receive fiber service from At&t, in order for it to be priced anywhere near what Google offers, I would have to accept packet inspection for advertising purposes.

This blog is petty, misleading, and unprofessional. If a given ISP is so great, let their service, prices, and support speak for themselves. If customers were satisfied with the existing options, Google Fiber wouldn’t be here much less in the headlines.

Bob Carson August 31, 2016 at 1:59 pm

I can’t wait until public telecom and broadband puts you clowns out on the street.

Nathan Raab August 31, 2016 at 2:19 pm

This post is just… very disappointing.

Ms. Marsh, please take a look at your own company before slinging mud. Gigapower is barely available anywhere, despite FTTN already being in place everywhere U-Verse is deployed. Your company routinely pushes laws and donates money with the blatant purpose of restricting competition. Your company has been given billions in tax breaks and incentives to deploy FTTP to every property you serve, and instead we have a half-baked FTTN solution that barely hits speeds cable was at 15 years ago.

I’ve been a U-verse subscriber for almost 7 years, and I haven’t seen any progress whatsoever on faster speeds. I have repeatedly sought information on timelines, and repeatedly got nothing in reply.

Honestly, the only thing stopping AT&T is AT&T. The only “dust” you guys have is on a file folder called “Fiber to the Premises Investment Plan”

Asten Rathbun August 31, 2016 at 2:47 pm

You seem to have conveniently overlooked a very important difference between Google and AT&T. Everyone hates AT&T, many people love Google.

I would pay Google double for the same service I get from AT&T. The only reason I use your company now is because Comcast is marginally worse. People are pining for the day when Google rolls out fiber for their town.

Scott August 31, 2016 at 3:31 pm

“Invested $140B in its network”

Network still terrible. Most areas still only have DSL offerings

Estonia has better speeds than our 50 year old infrastructure.

Chris August 31, 2016 at 3:56 pm

Joan, I’m sure all the telecom companies played fair when they were establishing their big business monopolies on cable and internet across the country, right? Ma Bell never did anything wrong, did she? At least Google is trying to expand, and innovate, to the benefit of the consumer. It forces companies to upgrade their services and offer discounts in areas where Fiber exists. You work for ATT and basically lobby the FCC on their behalf…could anyone expect a neutral blog post from you about their current decision to slow expansion? I hope they succeed in their plans for wireless expansion, and leave the dried bones of your company and Comcast in the dust.

David E Johnston August 31, 2016 at 4:34 pm

Stupid article. AT&T/Verizon Monopoly’s are reacting to Google’s presence in the marketplace by increasing broadband speed, limiting their throttling, stopping their illegal “pay as you go” model (ex. Netflix). I would think that you would be thanking Google for helping you correct your course and get back on track before a real competitor came into the marketplace attempting to take all your business with GOOD CUSTOMER SERVICE, FAIR and UPFRONT PRICING, and a RESPECTED NAME- Oh wait, Google is knocking on the door.

Charles Shurlow August 31, 2016 at 4:36 pm

Stop bragging about your internet. It’s terrible and so your integrity is questionable.

Stephen Stone August 31, 2016 at 8:02 pm

This post could not make ATT look more pathetic. You’re insulting a company for trying to make the internet better? Reminds me of Microsoft’s Scroogled campaign. Like anything in life, criticizing someone else doesn’t make you cooler.

Sean John August 31, 2016 at 8:50 pm

I am a gigapower customer, and I understand ATT has room to brag, however lets be honest. Without Google shaking up the industry, I don’t think there would have been the push for Gigabit fiber rollout.

I am very satisfied with my service, but lets give Google credit where its due. Google lit the match, ATT and other telcoms stoked the flame.

Michael H August 31, 2016 at 9:59 pm

Until Google fiber is available to me, I’ll use TWC in one home and Comcast in my other home. And I’m talking about S. Florida and Raleigh, you might’ve heard of these areas.

Sorry but nobody really cares about ATT’s Internet service, so why would they care about your statements of another’s? Until you offer a better solution, I would keep my mouth shut.

Juan Zevallos August 31, 2016 at 10:34 pm

Seriously AT&T? You’ve taken millions if not billions from the FCC – or should I say the American people and you’re claim to fame is crappy DSL. #iwantdslsaidnooneever

Alyssa Clemsen August 31, 2016 at 11:02 pm

This post was written in extremely bad taste. Life long AT&T subscriber just left for someone better.

Doug E. Fresh September 1, 2016 at 3:37 am

LMAO, what a joke this is. AT&T which is the by all accounts the worst company to have to ever deal with, work with, or even try to stay away from (spam snail mail, spam emails, 3rd party rude door to door sales people, etc.). Has no room to lecture anyone else on how they should be conducting their business. Hell AT&A can’t even keep their own company running smooth. Take the fact that 98+ percent of all 1-800 call are going through mainframe systems built in the 70s and are failing. Yet haven’t even tired to replace them. It if wasn’t for the contract with Lucent Technologies these servers would be doomed as they haven’t been able to get new parts in them in over 17 years. AT&A is literally running almost all of its big business off servers held together by parts savaged off of eBay.

Chris Franklin September 1, 2016 at 5:21 am

Glass Houses AT&T – based on my experience with GigaPower it will only be a matter of time before you get out of the fiber market. The past 60 days there has been fiber laying in the road across three driveways for my service. At least 4 visits by AT&T to trench only to realize they needed direct bore. No calls from AT&T – I have to get calling to check status. I have a full time job, but checking up on AT&T buried cable is my part-time job.

David Haygood September 1, 2016 at 8:35 am

The hypocrisy in this post is insane. ATT has bought more state laws than just about any other ISP, and all of them have been to block out any other form of competition.

Google is demanding laws that will open up competition. That alone turns this entire post on its head.

Cdaragorn September 1, 2016 at 11:56 am

Perfect example of “the pot calling the kettle black”. AT&T is the poster child for government handouts.

Pete Mitchell September 1, 2016 at 12:27 pm

As an AT&T customer, I find this blog post infuriating. If not for Google Fiber, I would still be paying the same outrageous fees for much slower service. The infrastructure, you so smugly brag about, is horrible. The service we receive is constantly under-performing advertised speeds, and your customer support is the worst in the industry.

I am very disappointed Google Fiber project is potentially coming to an end. I thank them for their efforts and are grateful to them for forcing companies like yours to provide the services and prices you should have been providing to begin with.

Jennifer Nair September 1, 2016 at 2:16 pm

This is amusing, a little bit. I am sure like many US customers I had forgotten that Google Fibre was even a thing. But as ATT looks in it’s rearview mirror, it falls far being Comcast/Shinier. First I am a loyal ATT customer, paying for about a dozen land lines, 3 personal and 4 business wireless lines for over ten years. But ATT forced me to drop their “high speed” internet service for a few reasons: 1) at the claimed 3mb it is not fast, it usually operated at about 70k, and 2) service was choked for my video streaming to an unusable 25kb-half the speed of dial up in the 1990’s! So as I now routinely clock over 100mb I can’t actually see ATT in my rearview mirror. I live ATT so please, stop looking backwards!

George McHugh September 1, 2016 at 2:34 pm

AT&T! Who the hell do you think YOU are?! You’ve gone back to your monopolistic practices thinking you own the world! You constantly overcharge and under-deliver and you protect your turf like a thug with legislators in your pocket and lawyers at your back! You just lost what little business you were ever likely to receive from me! We WILL break you again if you keep to your despotism and this time you will stay broken. Especially your golden parachute wielding execs! AT&T is the most corrupt, diseased entity out there and it’s time for an amputation!

Walter Scott Hill September 1, 2016 at 4:08 pm

I’d love to see AT&T also commit to not seek favoritism from government… specifically by refraining from pushing state laws that hamstring community broadband. Seems like there is a bit of hypocrisy in this post. No doubt this comment will be moderated out, though.

Matthew Friedman September 1, 2016 at 5:06 pm

If it’s so easy, how come you’re still delivering sub-standard Internet speeds to my intown Atlanta neighborhood?

Jim Philips September 1, 2016 at 6:21 pm

For all this talk AT&T still has terrible plans/speed/prices. Childish responses aside calling the kettle a different shade of black still means you are a kettle. In this case a much darker, crooked, greedy shade.

Someone September 1, 2016 at 11:43 pm

People and press are reacting negatively to this article. I keep seeing references to it in my news feed. How about just do the right thing and let that be enough.

Abel Alvarado September 2, 2016 at 2:08 am

140 Years and $140MM later, and you still can’t make it to an overpriced installation appointment on time. Rip on Google all you want, but that finger of yours is pointing right back at you as you continue resting on your laurels.

Aaron Angel September 2, 2016 at 8:18 am

Thanks for some history and reality. We have a “cell tree” in our affluent neighborhood that smells of wifi-on-steroids. Challenge of FTTH for home customers is same for all providers. The 140B$ above, I suspect, is still “backbone” for most cities. Residential customers in brand new neighborhoods are shining examples of Gigabit Broadband customers, but the rest of us must wait for economics to catch up to us.

Michael Hardy September 2, 2016 at 9:13 am

Sure it’s easier for you! You have been abusing your customers with crappy, overpriced services for years. I’m embarrassed to be your customer after reading this tripe. The only reason I stay with your company is that I have a lower opinion of Verizon. Shame on you for this garbage. Clean up your own house before disparaging others.

Jason Beeler September 2, 2016 at 11:49 am

Good points until you got to the part about Google seeking favortism from governments. AT&T (and SBC before) has done this relentlessly, mounting massive campaigns to get laws changed and new laws passed in state legislatures across the land to favor their business. I know this because I have worked on a number of them as a vendor to AT&T media consultants. AT&T doesn’t play the game differently than anyone else. Why criticize others for doing what you do?

Thomas Franklin September 2, 2016 at 12:51 pm

Good timeline of events. Google isn’t a telecom company like you, so it should be no surprise that building networks would be difficult for them just as it would be difficult for AT&T to do what Google does. So, I am not surprised at the outcome of their efforts. You fail to mention, though, that Google is in a competitive and open set of markets. They cannot raise barriers to entry like AT&T had been doing until the 1984 breakup. No wonder you were able to build America’s infrastructure – you were a regulated monopoly for several decades prior to 1984.

With innovation comes risk. Faced with risk, one examines alternatives and picks a course of action. So, no surprises that Google wants to plot a different route to provide broadband connectivity. Meantime, AT&T was a behemoth charging high rates and tariffs for providing telecom services.

As far as complaining, don’t let me tell you what Randall Stephenson had threatened to do if Net Neutrality was instituted. Further, you lobby vehemently against cities that want to build their own municipal broadband networks.

Perry S. Kahai, Ph.D. September 2, 2016 at 7:38 pm

Let’s keep this in perspective here. AT&T and Comcast would have kept milking customers for all the money they could and would NOT have deployed ANY fiber had it not been for the free market competition from Google. All the wonderful “investment” dollars that you claim in your article would have been spent cutting bonus checks to executives.
AT&T is no darling when it comes to the way they treat their employees. Give Google credit for at least trying bring balance and fair competition to the broadband market.

Frank Yodonis September 6, 2016 at 9:22 am

Wish we could get high speed internet. I live in Allen TX,population 95000 and the most I can get per ATT techs is 25 MPS!!

Larry Ciske September 6, 2016 at 9:41 am

Some of us remember the way that the incumbents crushed the competitive local exchange carriers in 2000, not through providing a good service at a fair price, but by buying legislation at state level to impose 911 service reliability standards that the incumbents themselves couldn’t meet. (But the incumbents could afford to cry crocodile tears and pay the fines, which were structured to cost small players far more per line than big players.) Some of us remember grossly deceptive advertising campaigns about call quality and capital investment and coverage areas and roaming fees, which combined with cartelized bidding patterns to shut competitive wireless carriers out of the US market. Some of us have noticed how grossly inferior the interconnect at US public internet exchanges is to their European equivalents, while private overlay networks operating hand-in-glove with the backbone providers eat all the margins in voice over IP space. It will take time, and far more capital than Google has yet brought to bear; but Google *will* break AT&T and its ilk, and this sort of hollow mockery will receive the derision it deserves. In the meantime, you couldn’t pay me enough to do business with AT&T. Verizon’s just as unscrupulous, but at least their service *works*.

Michael K. Edwards September 6, 2016 at 10:24 pm

“Meanwhile, without excuses or finger-pointing, and without presenting ultimatums to cities in exchange for service, AT&T continues to deploy fiber and to connect our customers to broadband services in communities across the country. Welcome to the broadband network business, Google Fiber. We’ll be watching your next move from our rear view mirror. Oh, and pardon our dust.”

While you continue to screw your customers and seek to eliminate competition all while driving up rates for broadband access.
Yes construction is time consuming and fiber construction requires skilled technicians but it is mostly the result of legacy telco thinking and local regulations designed to limit competition instead of encourage it. Despite this, Google fiber is a big hit with consumers wherever it is deployed and waiting lists wherever it is proposed.

Gragg Vaill September 8, 2016 at 7:59 am

I have AT&T for wireless, home internet, and Uverse TV. I love it all! I’ve had it for years and customer service has proven to be responsive and effective unlike Comcast. Keep up the good work AT&T I appreciate it!

JOSEPH HUNTER October 26, 2016 at 9:25 am

Google gets a lot of the positive PR, but it’s amazing how much political corruption is involved in their attempt to deploy a network. If you actually pay attention to what’s going on, Google is basically trying to cheat their way to success.

Jacob Weisz November 2, 2016 at 11:56 am

LMAO! AT&T talking about Google, when they offer 1Gbps speeds and I’m getting speeds of no more than 450Mbps, less than 50% of the up to speed advertised? Please! The only reason I still pay for your service is because I have no other choice. Monopoly…

Hector Pena December 30, 2016 at 1:04 am

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