AT&T about to install fiber Internet in some Louisville neighborhoods – WDRB

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – While Louisville waits with bated breath for Google Fiber, at least two East End subdivisions are about to get the super-fast gigabit Internet connections that city leaders have coveted for years.

And it’s not Google – but AT&T — that’s delivering the speed.

At the same time it’s suing Louisville Metro over an ordinance meant to help Google Fiber, AT&T is also telling some neighborhoods that the company will soon dig in the rights of way to lay fiber-optic cables for its own gigabit service, called GigaPower.

AT&T’s entry would mark the first time – after years of effort by the city — that at least some Louisville homeowners have access to fiber connections, said Ted Smith, Louisville Metro’s chief of civic innovation.

“This will be an important milestone,” he said.

The so-called “gigabit” connections are tens or hundreds of times faster than what is typically available from DSL and cable lines in Louisville. The industrial-strength broadband makes it easier to stream TV shows, download high-resolution movies and conduct video conferences.

Mayor Greg Fischer has compared strong Internet connectivity to other basic infrastructure likes roads and sewers. Having “fiber” would also boost Louisville’s status in the tech community.

AT&T has notified two Jeffersontown-area subdivisions – Silver Oaks and Landherr Estates – that the company will soon be working in the rights of way, including some digging, to install fiber-optic lines.  

Joe Burgan, an AT&T spokesman, confirmed that the homeowners associations of those subdivisions recently got letters from the company, but he was unable to say if there are other neighborhoods getting the service, nor to provide a comprehensive list.

Hood Harris, the president of AT&T Kentucky, said the company is working “across the city” to bring the service, which will be operational by the end of year. But he declined to reveal which areas will receive GigaPower, nor the timeline of the installations.

Google has said it’s looking at wiring all of Jefferson County with fiber – a multi-year project that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars. But in Kansas City, Google has skipped neighborhoods with low demand for the service.

AT&T’s Harris could not say exactly how broad GigaPower’s coverage will be in Louisville, but it’s not just newer subdivisions with underground utilities that will get it, he said.

“I can tell you, the ones (neighborhoods) we’re in now – they’re not the first and they’re not going to be the last,” Harris told WDRB on Thursday. “We’re committed to do a lot of work here to put this product out for consumers.”

AT&T has said GigaPower is available to about 1 million homes in 20 cities, and it hopes to double the coverage to 2 million this year.

On Monday, Silver Oaks Homeowners Association president Michael Fauth was surprised to get an email from an AT&T contractor in Gastonia, North Carolina.

The email included a letter, signed by an AT&T engineer in Nashville, that said AT&T would soon be “physically on the property” in the neighborhood  – including “some digging and the installation of pedestals and underground conduit” – to install “a new state-of-the-art fiber to the home network.”

Silver Oaks, a 249-home subdivision off Billtown Road, was built in the early 2000s and includes underground utilities.

“Our Facebook page was lighting up” when the news about AT&T got out earlier this week, Fauth said.

Corey O’Brien, a software developer who works from a home office in the neighborhood, said the letter from AT&T was “like winning lottery.”

O’Brien recently moved to Louisville from Austin, Texas, where AT&T and Google Fiber compete for customers.

O’Brien currently pays extra to Time Warner Cable for the company’s top download speed – 50 megabits per second – at his house because he video-conferences with co-workers and uploads large files for his job.

“I’ll be a subscriber right away” to GigaPower, O’Brien said.

Harris also could not say how much GigaPower  – which offers TV and phone in addition to Internet – will cost in Louisville.

In the 20 other cities where it operates, prices for the service are about on par with Google Fiber.

In the Nashville area, for example, AT&T says prices “start as low as” $70 a month for a 1 gigabit per second Internet connection, $120 for Internet and TV and $150 for all three services. The lower prices require customers agree to let AT&T use their search terms and browsing history to generate “relevant offers and ads tailored to their interests.”

Meanwhile, AT&T and Louisville Metro have just begun to battle in federal court over an ordinance that passed the Metro Council last month at the behest of Google Fiber.

The ordinance allows new providers like Google to rearrange other company’s equipment on utility poles when installing their own services.

Despite that disagreement, Smith said the city welcomes the beefed-up services from AT&T.

“We’re very excited for any provider to be in our community and to provide ultra-high speed, cost effective Internet,” he said.

Copyright 2016 WDRB News. All rights reserved.


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