AT&T announced yesterday that it’s expanding its gigabit fiber internet service in existing markets and bringing new cities onboard. The expansion, which is centered on the 17 existing metro areas AT&T currently operates its fiber service in, means the company will be serving up speeds as fast as 1,000 Mbps (but likely lower than that in realistic usage scenarios) to more than 4 million homes. You can find a full list of available markets here.
To be fair, AT&T still hasn’t brought fiber to some of the largest metropolitan areas in the US, including the San Francisco Bay Area and New York City. It does, however, offer gigabit speeds to customers in the Los Angeles, San Diego, and Chicago areas, as well as scores of smaller mid-sized cities in the south and mid-west. Plans start at $80 a month for internet only and jump to $119 after the first year. So it’s certainly not cheap, but AT&T’s ambitions do bode well for the eventual expansion of fiber across the country. As AT&T moves forward with its plans, we can be sure that Comcast, Verizon, and other telecoms will follow.
That may be disheartening news to customers who want an alternative option for faster internet. But the largest proponent of gigabit speeds outside the telecom circle, Google Fiber, has been struggling of late. As part of Google’s restructuring as Alphabet and the ripple effects of that 2015 decision, Google Fiber has found itself under Alphabet’s Access unit, where it’s been pressured to cut costs and find an easier route to profitability. It turns out laying fiber is time-consuming and expensive, putting the Alphabet unit at a disadvantage when competing with companies like AT&T that have invested billions in infrastructure over the years.
These developments have led Google Fiber to pause its expansion plans and even consider ditching fiber optic cabling as a delivery mechanism, with the company looking instead toward wireless options after purchasing San Francisco-based internet provider Webpass. So right now, if you’re hungry for gigabit speeds, AT&T might be your best option in the near future. The company plans to expand to 67 cities and 12.5 million homes by the middle of 2019.