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[April 21, 2014]
AT&T plans to roll out ultra-fast fiber network in St. Louis area [St. Louis Post-Dispatch :: ]
(St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) April 22--AT&T has picked the St. Louis area to be one of the metro areas where it plans to build an ultra-fast fiber network that allows download speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second.
AT&T Inc. said that the cities of St. Louis, Chesterfield, Edwardsville, Florissant and Granite City would get access to AT&T U-verse's GigaPower broadband service. The earliest the faster service would be added locally is next year.
The Dallas-based telecommunications giant announced Monday that it is eyeing expansion of the new ultra-fast broadband service to certain cities in the St. Louis region and 20 other metro areas. All together, the expansion could encompass 100 cities. Currently, the service is only available in the Austin, Texas, area.
In its announcement, AT&T said the roll-out would depend on the demand for services and efforts by local officials to streamline the permitting process. AT&T must receive permits from the municipalities to link the fiber network it already has in place to residences and businesses.
However, an AT&T executive told the Post-Dispatch that the service will be coming to those five cities in the St. Louis region.
"Half of the infrastructure is already in place," said John Sondag, president of AT&T Missouri.
The local areas that were selected have high concentrations of U-Verse customers and aerial wires versus underground networks. Aerial wire systems are more economical for the company to add the fiber, Sondag said.
AT&T still has yet to determine exactly which neighborhoods in those cities will receive the service. And the company still needs to iron out details with local officials.
"We've had conversations with all five mayors of these cities, and they're all very enthusiastic about working with us," Sondag said. "The areas that have the most interest, that's where we'll build first." Ultimately, AT&T wants to add more cities within the region.
"This is the initial list," Sondag said. "We obviously have interest in expanding it to other cities here." Pricing has not been determined, but in Austin, AT&T is offering the faster Internet service for $70 a month, or $120 a month when bundled with television service.
For St. Louis, expanding options for faster Internet service could be a boost to efforts to grow technology startups here, according to Jeff Rainford, chief of staff for Mayor Francis Slay.
"We're certainly excited about this coming to residential areas, but one of the things we want to talk about with AT&T is where U-Verse is not offered, and getting access there," Rainford said.
"We have this burgeoning startup culture in St. Louis, and this could be a tremendous boost for that here." Rainford said St. Louis will work with AT&T in its desire to create a streamlined process to add the ultra-fast fiber network.
"We'll certainly make sure that the regulatory process does not impede the growth of technology in the city," Rainford said.
Edwardsville City Administrator Tim Harr said city officials have had some preliminary talks with AT&T about the faster service.
"This certainly gives another option, and competition is good for all of us," Harr said.
The announcement comes as AT&T and other companies scramble to compete with Google Inc.'s plan to build an ultra-fast fiber network, called Google Fiber.
In 2012, the search engine giant began to offer Google Fiber in parts of the Kansas City area. Since then, it has introduced the service to parts of Provo, Utah, and it plans to roll out Google Fiber in Austin.
In December, AT&T first introduced the GigaPower service in the Austin area, and it expects to roll out the service in the Dallas area this summer. Before Monday's announcement, the company had announced it was eyeing expansion to the North Carolina areas of Raleigh-Durham and Winston-Salem.
With Monday's announcement, AT&T and Google could be competing directly in eight metro areas.
Charter Communications, which offers its gigabit service to commercial customers and speeds ranging from 30 to 100 megabits per second to residential customers, declined to comment on AT&T's expansion of the ultra-fast fiber network.
"We've announced that our move to all-digital will increase our minimum speeds to 60 (megabits per second) at the end of the year, and we're confident in our ability to offer a suite of services that is second to none," Charter spokeswoman Anita Lamont wrote in an email.
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