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AT&T to Google Fiber: Suck it up, broadband is tough - and get ready to eat our dust

AT&T has thrown down the gauntlet to Google Fiber on rolling-out high-speed fiber networks to the US.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer on

Salt Lake City is one of the latest areas to get Google Fiber.

Image: Google

AT&T is relishing Google Fiber's reported troubles, and has laid out for its rival what it sees are a few harsh truths about the telecoms business.

A post on AT&T's public policy blog, entitled Broadband Investment: Not for the Faint of Heart, offers an account of Google's networking ambitions since 2007 -- predating the 2010 launch of Google Fiber -- and its failures ever since to deliver them.

According to the post's author, AT&T's VP of federal regulatory Joan Marsh, that's because Google underestimated the challenges of rolling-out fiber and overestimated the promise of alternative wireless technologies.

It follows a report that Google Fiber will halve its headcount and refocus on wireless broadband after failing to secure the five million subscribers it hoped to have attracted within five years.

Marsh predicts Google Fiber's wireless strategy will fail too, though expects the unit to continue with "broadband experiments, while coming up with excuses for its shortcomings and learning curves".

In relation to Google's recent acquisition of wireless broadband provider, Webpass, Marsh offered this forecast: "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."

Google Fiber is seen as a threat to incumbents like AT&T, and the two companies have been at loggerheads over access to the telco's utility poles for several years. The pair recently tangled over the process governing access to poles in Nashville, with AT&T objecting to Google Fiber's proposal to use its own contractors to string up cable instead of relying on AT&T's workforce.

An AT&T exec told FierceTelecom last week that Google's proposal to bypass AT&T won't work because many of the engineering plans that Google has submitted to the telco were flawed.

Marsh picks up on this fight and references a report that a Google Fiber executive told Nashville City Council that the firm's fiber network might bypass the city if the authority failed to change its pole attachment policy.

"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," she wrote.

"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," Marsh continued.

"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."

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