With Google Fiber On The Way, AT&T Fiber Customers Receive Free Boost To Connection Only 976 Mbps Slower Than Google's Connection

from the loosening-the-artificial-cap dept

With the threat of Google’s fiber expansion making real competition a reality in some markets (rather than the perceived competition where multiple cablecos and ISPs offer middling service while offering small discounts or limited time price breaks), AT&T is now being forced to upgrade its existing service in the affected area, or at least, to pay it some lip service. Its press release following the news read more like a Bart Simpson quote: “We can’t promise to try. But we’ll try to try.”

It appears AT&T is actually doing at least a little something for its existing fiber customers in Austin. Austin members of the DSLReports boards are reporting that AT&T has removed the governor (or loosened it, anyway) on its fiber connections, bumping the speed up to nearly 2.5% of Google’s offering.

I called to cancel U-Verse because Time Warner offers Docsis 3.0 speeds for far cheaper in the Austin area. Uverse told me that select FTTH customers can now get 24/3 instead of the previous cap of 18/1.5. They just have to send a “special” technican to upgrade my equipment. I am letting them come and try because I don’t believe it.

Why aren’t these fiber customers already enjoying vastly improved speeds over other U-Verse subscribers? Why has it taken the threat of a real competitor to remove the artificial cap AT&T installed? Apparently, it’s because AT&T wants to treat all of its customers fairly and ensure they receive the same lousy connection speed.

While AT&T took the cheaper route when upgrading portions of their network to fiber to the node, the company has historically offered fiber to the home to a few locations (less than a few hundred thousand), primarily in upscale housing developments. While those lines are capable of significantly higher speeds, AT&T has traditionally capped those users at the same speed as other U-Verse users. The company told me in 2007 this was to create a “more consistent experience.”

Consistent under-performance is consistent.

That means you have users on cutting-edge fiber infrastructure, in some places seeing downstream speeds of just 6 Mbps — and upstream speeds of just 1.5 Mbps.

So, while this speed bump may be appreciated, it is long overdue. The fact is fiber customers should have surpassed 24/3 a long time ago, rather than making do with a small, tossed off bit of faux largesse from AT&T. An incremental boost like this, especially on a fiber connection, isn’t going to be enough to keep AT&T customers from lining up for Google Fiber. Even if AT&T begins making more aggressive moves, it’s highly doubtful its customers believe it will ever match Google’s connection speed. As Karl Bode says:

Given these past speed issues, this is why most AT&T customers will believe 1 Gbps only when it’s up and running.

Exactly. Time Warner Cable, facing direct competition from Google Fiber, flat out stated there was no demand for this connection speed and that it would certainly be happy to provide 1Gbps connection should anyone prove they actually needed it. Translation: probably never. AT&T’s slippery press release “nailed down” pretty much the same approximate timeframe. It’s clear competition will have some positive effect for those in the covered areas. I’m sure TWC and AT&T are both happy a nationwide Google expansion would be prohibitively expensive, allowing them to continue providing subpar connection speeds and terrible customer service.

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Companies: at&t, google

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Comments on “With Google Fiber On The Way, AT&T Fiber Customers Receive Free Boost To Connection Only 976 Mbps Slower Than Google's Connection”

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54 Comments
Akari Mizunashi (profile) says:

Ah, but it was also prohibitively expensive for AT&T to lay its land lines years ago. Granted, The Man stepped and threw the company against the wall to break it into pieces, but it should realize the implications of “expense” is relative when everyone else is paying the bills to lay it.

Or do these idiotic companies really believe Google is a telco?

Heh. Let them wallow in their own pity when their customer base drops.

Now, if only Google would hit central Indiana, I’d be set.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I’d love to see Google step in and start offering dirty cheap blazing fast connections. It doesn’t have to be free. All of us know there are SOME costs to operate such a network. But we all know it’s NOT what the telcos tell us.

I’m kind of wary when I see Google trying to hug the entire world sticking their noses in whatever business their ethereal collective wills see fit. However truth to be said they made players in the areas they entered move their fat arses and actually compete. And that’s beneficial, no doubts.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

It doesn’t have to be free. All of us know there are SOME costs to operate such a network. But we all know it’s NOT what the telcos tell us.

I think this is the real threat Google fiber is to the telcos. And like all entrenched monopolies, they’re mistaking the threat for something else – thinking that its only about speed or “free” access.

Anonymous Coward says:

“I’m sure TWC and AT&T are both happy a nationwide Google expansion would be prohibitively expensive, allowing them to continue providing subpar connection speeds and terrible customer service. “
The internet itself was once prohibitively expensive, but it sure didn’t stay that way, and a nationwide Google fiber expansion won’t stay that way forever. So, let the TWCs and the AT&Ts of the world rest on their laurels. We’ll see how uncomfortable that seat gets.

el_segfaulto (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The problem is that the advertised speed is megabit while our operating systems use Mebibytes [2^20] (compared to the Megabytes [10^6] of hard drive manufacturers). Your 35Mbps connection is about 4.5 MiBps. That is enough to stream a reasonably HD movie from Netflix, but if you have somebody else in the house wanting to stream, play an online game, or browse in a snappy matter you’ll be out of luck. I have 50 Mbps service with Charter and am actually pretty pleased with it. But saying that you’ll never peg a high-speed connection is just showing a lack of imagination.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I think there is something wrong with your connect. I have 25 Mbps and 3 different roommates each with Netflix and are online gamers. We can stream 2-3 HD Netflix streams and or use online gaming without a problem. I would love to have much faster speeds but that is due to wanting to host games and need the upload to handle it. Once 5-6 people connect, my upload speed is the bottle neck.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Well there is bandwidth and then there is concurrent TCP connections. Never cheap out on your router. It can make or break your high speed connection in a lot of cases.

If you have a router that limits concurrent TCP connections, then you are doing it wrong. Natural limits due to processing speed is one thing, but a router that artificially caps network connections (a lot of commercial off-the-shelf routers do,) should be slicked and have an open source firmware installed instead.

I’ve never had a problem, even with a 500 mHz router that I have, handling normal connections with 3 HD streams from Netflix/Hulu, games, and even running game servers. The only problem I’ve ever had was a stupid and “we’re so awesomely bad we actually show our Darwin awards with pride” cable Internet service provider who is more interested in upselling me to a business account at ~$250/mo as a “power home user” with no bandwidth increase and no change to the “no-servers” rules instead of providing me with the service (limited unlimited service) they sold me 15 years ago.

Jeffrey Nonken (profile) says:

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: if Google shows up in my neighborhood with this option, I’ll drop Uverse like a hot rock. (My only other choice, if you want to call it “choice”, is Comcast.) I doubt AT&T will convince me to stick around with their pathetic mediocre too-little, too-late upgrade offers.

Hey Google! Over here! Yo!

saulgoode (profile) says:

One does not even need to have fiber available for this arbitrary limitation to impact them. The U-verse network cabling supports about 60Mbps, but over 50Mbps is dedicated to TV service. There is no option available to get the full bandwidth available, even if the customer is willing to sacrifice television service and pay for the “additional” network bandwidth.

Anonymous Coward says:

Will the ISP's try to hide behind exclusive aggreements?

My rental townhome has an exclusive deal with Cox Cable here in Las Vegas. Meaning Cox is the only service provider that can hook up to the house cabling. I have a coax cable running through the house along the floorboards and over door jambs from the DirecTv dish. If I can get 1 gig internet I’ll put up with another cable running through the house.

Anonymous Coward says:

These telcos and cable companies are just plain insulting. They don’t want to offer 1gb speeds to their customers because the prices they would insist on charging for it aren’t what their customers would be willing (or maybe even able) to pay.

Verizon offers 300mb service is some locations and it costs hundreds of dollars per month to get it. Here comes Google offering 1gb symmetric service for $70. There’s no way that any of these incumbent players want to come anywhere close to Google’s price. And, due to the lack of competition in most areas, they don’t have to compete on price. They are free to gouge as much as they want with little recourse for consumers to opt for anything better.

I’m interested to see just what transpires in KC and TX, once Google Fiber has been (mostly) rolled out and how the incumbents are handling the competition.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re:

These telcos and cable companies are just plain insulting. They don’t want to offer 1gb speeds to their customers because the prices they would insist on charging for it aren’t what their customers would be willing (or maybe even able) to pay.

I wonder if there is some collusion with the RIAA/MPAA on this. By keeping the speeds slow, it is a lot harder to download/stream stuff off of the internet.

Anonymous Coward says:

I have a few thoughts on this whole AT&T response to Google Fiber.

First, it’s insulting to the public that they’re only making a play for benefits, after Google threatened their market.
Second, if they truly cared about their customers first, there are tens of thousands of different markets they could roll out Gigabit Fiber that Google has no presence in.
Third, if Google hadn’t started their Gigabit Fiber initiative and the ISP oligopoly was allowed to continue, how long do you think it would be before they were complaining about usage exceeding their bandwidth and start taking measures to switch to data cap models like the wireless carriers have already adopted?
Fourth, where the hell is the FCC? Shouldn’t they be slapping these companies around?

Bengie says:

Re: Re:

The issue is that getting everyone to 100Mb usually requires the same modern network that can already handle 1Gb.

Once you’ve already invested into a network that can handle 1Gb, the operations difference between 100Mb and 1Gb is moot, so why even offer 100Mb? I guess you could chop $5 off the bill to reflect the difference, but I don’t see why an ISP would want to do that.

Guido (profile) says:

Devil's advocate

Let Google pay some attention to the same rural areas that everyone but the cable monopolies ignore, and then maybe they’ll deserve some kudos. Otherwise, they’re only offering their high speed service in the same type of areas that AT&T, Verizon, etc do – the affluent, higher tech areas, and then still only to select neighborhoods.

Putting it on the man? More like showing up to the country club in a Tesla and parking next to the old fart in the Bentley… meet the new boss – same as the old boss…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Devil's advocate

They rolled out ONE city with plans to start rolling out a second city. Where they roll it out within that city is based on demand. They aren’t going to roll it out in an area of the city where only one person wants it.

This is a test for now and most of what they are doing is buying up the fiber lines of other failed telcos and whatnot to get it extra cheap.

minijedimaster (profile) says:

Re: "a nationwide Google expansion would be prohibitively expensive"

Idiot. Techdirt’s agenda has been and always will be to post stories for “out_of_the_blue” to comment on. People can’t have a good laugh and feel better about themselves if you’re not posting in the glorious fucktardedness only you can manage. Can’t believe you haven’t figured out this conspiracy yet! Oh that’s right, the first word of this post.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: "a nationwide Google expansion would be prohibitively expensive"

I read the article about how expensive it would be and there are several problems with that assumption.

1- It assumes Google will roll super-high-quality fiber EVERYWHERE in the country. Current telcos have not done that despite subsides.

2- It ignores how costs scale down after the core system is up and running.

3- It ignores that just like telcos received billions of dollars in tax breaks and subsides Google may be up for a similar deal if it does a good job.

4- It assumes Google will never charge for the service anywhere.

5- It assumes Google actually gives a damn about the short-term in terms of revenue.

So there you go.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Google could do a nationwide rollout

For google to do a nationwide rollout. They would need to do several things.

First spin off google fiber into its own private company with 20-30 billion in cash. Second create a full time table for a nationwide rollout. Third take the company public. They could raise an additional 50-90 billion (depending on the number of shares google has on the IPO) which would be enough to cover ~half the US.

Anonymous Coward says:

Isn’t it just amazing how fast these old telcos can come up with better ways to provide internet all of a sudden? I mean gee, wasn’t but just a year or so ago, AT&T had to have caps cause they weren’t doing so well providing internet speeds.

Now that that competition comes in suddenly they can get up to the ball game and offer to provide the same services providing they can get the same breaks. Google didn’t get the existing telco’s breaks so how about that work out the same too? Google ought to be able to qualify for all the money the telcos got to put in fiber.

All the while, the existing telcos didn’t give what they were given to assist do it in government welfare.

Yap, I think they have a right to be concerned. Not much chance that Google will show up here but if it did, I’d likely drop my present provider for it.

Greg Eames says:

Google Fiber

I live in Soith Africa and as an aside, most people can only dream of 6Mbps, but anyway.

We were told by our state owned, virtual monopoly telco, that the reason why they did not offer uncapped adsl accounts is because those people on adsl did not exceed their caps.

Need I mention the heavy penalties for doing so.

This statement of ‘being willing to supply it, if people can show they need it sounds like more of the same logic.

People cannot use what they do not have.

Rekrul says:

U-Verse was my first broadband internet connection. I went from dialup to 3Mbps (megabits). Then I upgraded to 6, and eventually 12. I dumped AT&T a couple years ago when they officially imposed a 250GB per month usage limit on accounts, and because Cablevision offered me a better deal. Their base speed was 15Mbps and they offered me their “Boost” service free for a year, $10 afterwards, which gave me 30/5. I didn’t get that speed initially, but after having someone come out to test the speed, I was given a DOCSIS 3 modem and then everything was fine.

Lately, AT&T has been trying to get me to switch. They brag about their 24Mbps service and I tell them that Cablevision offers 30Mbps. They tell me that cable is a shared line and that I won’t actually get that kind of speed. I tell them that my speedtests usually register about 34Mbps. I mention the 250GB usage limit and the sales people usually tell me that there’s no such policy and that it must have been because I was on the old system. I then direct them to the AT&T web site, where the limit is clearly listed. They usually have no response.

Brian Rotert says:

Google Fiber in Kansas City

I’m a Google Fiber customer in Kansas City, excited to dump TWC. We just purchased a different home a few blocks away and Google is telling me that “the sign up period” is closed. they can’t tell me when I can “sign up” but I should check back. THis is a huge blunder, in my opinion. They are installing new service all around the KC metro and they can’t take care of an existing customer? I would understand if the network wasn’t built out in my new neighborhood, but that is not the case. The network exists – they are simply controlling the installation process.

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