Earlier this year, Google announced that it would be bringing Google Fiber to Austin at some point in 2014. The local incumbent ISP - AT&T - immediately announced afterward that it would do the same. Many thought that AT&T's gigabit service would cost more than Google Fiber, but that's not the case.
AT&T announced this week that it's starting to roll out its GigaPower Fiber Internet service to four neighborhoods in Austin. While the 1Gbps speeds aren't happening just yet, subscribers in these four neighborhoods can get 300 Mbps now and then be upgraded to 1Gbps later at no extra charge.
So, how much is this going to cost? AT&T is competing directly with Google on price by charging only $70 a month for the service. If you want TV, that will bump the price up to $120. This is the exact same price as Google Fiber and it's a pretty good deal.
But wait, there's always a catch, isn't there? For you to get AT&T's gigabit Internet service at $70 a month, you must agree to enroll in AT&T's Internet Preferences program. The program allows AT&T to track your Web search and browser history to deliver targeted ads. In short, you're selling your privacy in exchange for a discount.
Fret not, however, as AT&T will also be offering the same Gigabit Internet without the privacy-infringing bits. This plan will cost $99 a month, and an extra $50 for U-Verse TV. It certainly costs more, but many people will probably choose this plan just so they aren't being tracked by AT&T.
We use various methods to collect web browsing information, and we are currently reviewing the methods we may use for the Internet Preferences program. Whichever method is used, we will not collect information from secure (https) or otherwise encrypted sites, such as online banking or when a credit card is used to buy something online on a secure site. And we won’t sell your personal information to anyone, for any reason.
So, all in all, it doesn't really sound all that bad, right? You can just pay a bit more and AT&T won't go snooping through your data. Is there any reason for Austin residents to wait for Google Fiber? Well, if you plan on using more than a terabyte of data a month, you might just want to wait. AT&T plans to implement a 1TB data cap on its gigabit service, and will charge $10 for each additional 50GB you use a month. In comparison, Google Fiber has no data cap.[Image: Wikimedia Commons]