AT&T lays challenge to Frontier, Google Fiber with Durham, N.C. 1 Gig launch

AT&T (NYSE: T) is bringing its 1 Gbps fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) U-verse with GigaPower service to Durham, N.C., a market where it currently does not operate as a wireline provider, laying a challenge to incumbent provider Frontier Communications and eventually Google Fiber (NASDAQ: GOOG).

Frontier began connecting Durham customers to 1 Gbps FTTH last year, and Google has cited Durham as a potential target for its own 1 Gbps service. Google Fiber has also cited Durham as an expansion target, but has not specified when it would actually begin building out service in the town. At the same time, it said it would connect FTTH services to affordable housing units for free as part of its involvement in the Obama administration's ConnectHome initiative.

Unlike its existing markets in North Carolina like Cary and Raleigh, the lack of wireline facilities in Durham meant the service provider had to build its FTTH network infrastructure from the ground up.

"This was a little bit out of the norm for us," said Venessa Harrison, AT&T North Carolina president, in an interview with the Triangle Business Journal. "We don't traditionally serve Durham."

Through its agreement with Next Generation Network North Carolina (NGNNC), AT&T offers its U-verse GigaPower offering to six communities, including Carrboro, Cary, Chapel Hill, Durham, Raleigh and Winston-Salem. AT&T began discussions with the NCNGN about bringing its services to these communities last April.

One of the towns that AT&T did not target as part of its involvement in the NCNGN project was Wake Forest. The town, according to a previous report, severed an agreement it had with RST Fiber, which had pre-signed 2,500 residents for the service. One hope the town has is that another service provider could come in and leverage the fiber network RST had put in place, but no provider has taken the town up on the offer yet.

Harrison told the Triangle Business Journal while it has no initial plans to bring its FTTH service to Wake Forest, she said that the telco never thought it would ever come to Durham when it began its fiber broadband push in 2013.  

Wake Forest is served by fellow telco CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL). Harrison said they would have to build a new network there, adding that "we always look for more opportunities."

For more:
- Triangle Business Journal has this article

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