AT&T Plans Gigabit Network in Research Triangle and Piedmont Triad in North Carolina

Many complain that there isn't enough competition in the U.S. fixed network high speed access market. But largely because of Google Fiber, the amount of competition is heating up. 

AT&T now says it is negotiating wtih municipal officials to build gigabit networks in areas of Carrboro, Cary, Chapel Hill, Durham, Raleigh and Winston-Salem, N.C.

AT&T says it is in "advanced discussions" with the North Carolina Next Generation Network (NCNGN) to deliver gigabit service "where there is demand." 

For those of you familiar with the ways municipalities traditionally have regulated either video entertainment or telecom services, that is a switch. 

In the past, regulators would have required ubiquitous deployment everywhere in a region, even if demand likely would not be high. That has the effect of depressing investment that otherwise would be made, in areas where there is demand. 

The more-flexible approach now seems to be to encourage gigabit network deployment as widely as possible by allowing Internet service providers to build first in neighborhoods or communities where the likelihood of uptake is the highest.

The hope is that demand in close-by communities will grow over time, as residents bcome aware of the value. Also, the initial deployments will help create a better business model for additional neighborhoods to be added to the network. 

At least in part, the new flexibility has been helped by other public-private partnerships that have focused on creating gigabit networks around anchor institutions. Google Fiber also has shown the wisdom of allowing new facilities to be deployed initially where uptake is expected to be greatest, allowing ISPs to build volume and reduce costs for follow-on deployments.

In part, the new flexibility will encourage other ISPs to make similar investments. The movement will be most crucial for ISPs such as AT&T and Verizon, which have bigger opportunities than most other providers, given their size and presence in major markets most conducive to gigabit deployments. 

CenturyLink has yet to make similar moves outside of some parts of its Omaha markets where previous owner Qwest had built fiber facilities that can be upgraded for gigabit access. 

The point is that competition is heating up, in the gigabit high speed access market. 
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