AT&T’s gigabit Internet plan now includes Greensboro

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GREENSBORO, N.C. — AT&T said today it will include Greensboro and the Charlotte area into its plans for an ultra-fast fiber network.

The company said April 9 it is “advanced discussions” with the N.C. Next Generation Network to provide transmission speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second.

The Next Generation effort includes Winston-Salem, Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and such universities as Wake Forest, Duke and UNC Chapel Hill.

Company officials said the service would be 10 times faster than the fastest consumer broadband available today in the communities taking part. A speed of one gigabit means that someone could download 25 songs in one second, a television show in three seconds and an online movie in less than 36 seconds, according to AT&T.

Plans include options allowing public hotspots for the new service and connections to business buildings, the company said. The company would provide high-speed Internet at selected affordable-housing complexes and up to 3,000 homes at a potential cost of $70 to $100 a month.

The network is a way to allow more people to have access to cloud technology at an affordable price, said Rick Matthews, an associate provost for technology and information systems at Wake Forest.

AT&T said today it is considering up to 100 cities and municipalities nationwide, including 21 new metro areas.

AT&T is including Huntersville and Gastonia as part of the Charlotte market.

“Those communities that have suitable network facilities, and show the strongest investment cases based on anticipated demand and the most receptive policies will influence these future selections and coverage maps within selected areas,” AT&T said in a statement.

“This initiative continues AT&T’s on-going commitment to economic development in these communities, bringing jobs, advanced technologies and infrastructure.”

Lee Garrity, city manager for Winston-Salem, said the city council will vote tonight on whether to endorse the selection of AT&T, which would help smooth the path for the company’s effort to bring the ultrafast Internet service here.

AT&T said that if the governing bodies of the Next Generation communities ratify the agreement, next steps would include meetings in the communities to work out the details of installing the service.

The universities in North Carolina are establishing the network as part of the GiG.U initiative, which involves 37 universities nationwide.

An advantage Winston-Salem has is that the potential network would be built on part of the high-tech foundation provided since 2001 by Winston-Net, a partnership of local governments, academic institutions and the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce.

Matthews said the N.C. network would consist of at least two hubs, one of which is likely to be established in or near each university. The service would spread to communities and neighborhoods, potentially covering all of Forsyth County at some point.

Tracy Futhey, who chairs the steering committee for the Next Generation effort, said in a statement April 9 that the participants are encouraged by AT&T’s interest in delivering the service.

“This kind of private sector investment is essential to ensure our regions remain competitive and at the forefront of next-generation applications that are important to all sectors of the economy,” Futhey said.

Other metros listed by AT&T today are Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Fort Worth, Texas, Houston, Jacksonville, Fla., Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, Tenn., Oakland, Calif., Orlando, Fla., San Antonio, San Diego, St. Louis, San Francisco and San Jose, Calif.

Heather Burnett Gold, president of the Fiber to the Home Council Americas, called today’s AT&T announcement “a tipping point” for ultra-high speed Internet.

“Fiber to the home communities are places that have the economic engine for attracting more companies and creating new job opportunities,” Gold said.

“Around the world — but importantly, here in the U.S. — we are beginning to see fiber to the home treated not as a novelty, but as vital public and private infrastructure.”

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