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AT&T suddenly finds demand for 1Gbps fiber in Kansas City – just after Google arrived

Sets the value of privacy at $29 per month

While the majority of Americans only have one choice of 25Mbps+ broadband provider, citizens of Kansas City – the Midwest's most connected hotspot – now have a fourth option: AT&T.

"We've moved quickly to bring more competition to the Kansas City area for blazing-fast Internet speeds and best-in-class television service," said John Sondag, president of AT&T Missouri, without apparent irony.

"But this is just our initial launch. We look forward to continuing to expand our AT&T GigaPower network in the Kansas City area where there are strong investment cases and receptive customers."

Very quick indeed, Sondag. Kansas City got the first deployment of Google's gigabit-a-second Fiber – besides a test network set up in Palo Alto – which went live way back in July 2012. A month later, suddenly two other ISPs decided they'd turn on fiber in the city too, at the same price point.

AT&T's late arrival matches the $70-a-month for 1Gbps set by Google, which other rivals in the city have matched. At&T but will throw in a guarantee that prices won't rise for three years. $50 a month extra gets you television, and there's a voice package that the Chocolate Factory can't match – yet.

Pay for your privacy peons!

But AT&T's GigaPower service has a massive hidden fee – a $29 a month if you choose not to take part in its "Internet Preferences" scheme, which logs all your web activity over the cable so the telco can serve targeted adverts on websites based on your behavior.

It remains to be seen how many of buyers are wowed by the prospect of paying $348 a year for privacy. There is plenty of competition for them to choose from anyway. When Google picked Kansas City, Comcast and Time Warner began offering fiber within a month to compete.

It was the same story in Austin, Texas, another Google Fiber city network. Since the web ad giant turned on that service in December last year, the city has a choice of three high-speed options – including a 300Mbps GigaPower service.

It's not hard to see there's a demand for bandwidth in Austin, home of the annual SXSW hipster wankfest, but AT&T's belated move into fiber for Kansas City does rather cast into question the telco's business plan.

Kansas City's internet usage is unremarkable. The twin-state city (one half in Kansas, the other in Missouri) doesn't have a hidden tech hub. It's just full of people who are sick of a trickle of DSL speeds for which they were being charged heavily and had a city council that was willing to let Google string fiber cable over its telephone poles.

It's difficult to see why many other parts of the country are being left out. Most of Silicon Valley is wired up with embarrassingly slow and expensive DSL rather than fiber, and you'd be hard pushed to argue with a straight face that's there's not a market for higher speeds. ®

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