AT&T Chasing Google, Offering $70 Fiber Broadband To Kansas City Residents

A handful of Americans are getting one step closer to actual 21st century, competitive broadband this week, as AT&T has announced that effective immediately, it’s competing to bring fast fiber internet to the greater Kansas City area, where Google Fiber has been dominating all the attention for the last few years.

In the continuing annals of, “Hey, it’s almost as if genuine competition really is good for consumers or something,” the plan on offer is an exact price match to Google’s now-legendary Fiber offering: $70 per month for internet only, $120 for internet plus TV.

AT&T insists that GigaPower can give “up to” 1 Gbps, although their rollout in other markets has been slow to reach true gigabit offerings, tending to hover more around the 300 Mbps mark. (Update: a representative for AT&T confirms that although GigaPower launched in Austin at 300 Mbps, all cities with the service are now getting true gigabit speeds.)

But there’s also a big catch: privacy costs an extra $29 per month, which would increase that base monthly bill by about 40%. To get that $70 internet package, subscribers have to agree to “let [AT&T] use your individual web browsing information, like the search terms you enter and the web pages you visit, to tailor ads and offers to your interests.”

That’s the same offer AT&T extended to would-be customers when GigaPower service launched in Austin late in 2013, and it seems likely to keep being their model going forward.

It’s no surprise that AT&T is chasing Google’s tail when it comes to ultra-high speed internet expansion. When AT&T announced their shortlist of future GigaPower cities last April, the set of potential markets had a huge overlap with Google’s same expansion list.

Part of that is because of logistics; cities with easily-accessed dark fiber and favorable tax conditions are prime targets for all comers. But part of it also is a genuine race for subscribers: consumers like really fast internet, and companies want to get subscribers signed up. Despite fighting against requirements to provide faster internet access, AT&T likes taking your money and if fiber is what gets you to give it to them and not to Google, well, there we are.

Google Fiber is only available to a small handful of cities, but where it exists, competition has followed. The incumbent ISPs — Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon, Cox, Charter, and AT&T — really, really hate losing subscribers to Google. Where Google has gone, customers of other companies have seen speed boosts and competitive pricing.

Although gigabit penetration is expanding, not even 3% of the nation actually has access to service at that speed just yet. The residents of Kansas City are in a rare position, not only having fast fiber access but having it from more than one provider. Perhaps the other ~313 million of us in the country will eventually be so lucky.