AT&T's Stephens: Local permitting efficiencies could drive more FTTH deployments

AT&T (NYSE: T) is feeling encouraged by its initial rollout of its 1 Gbps fiber-based broadband service and a more favorable permitting process from local communities.  

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AT&T CFO John Stephens told investors at the J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference that these factors are making it more bullish about the opportunity to potentially extend service into new markets outside of Austin, Texas.

Like other telcos, AT&T needs to get permitting approval from local communities to get access to necessary rights of way (ROWs) along public streets and utility poles to lay fiber and install related network electronics.

"In Austin, we were able to do a success-based build with some of the new streamlined permitting, right of way easement processes," Stephens said. "What we have seen is great adoption by our customers of high-speed products, strong customer satisfaction scores and appreciation for the product."

The early success and acceptance of the Gigapower service in Austin combined with its ongoing U-verse broadband expansion efforts has driven the telco to consider deploying FTTH in other markets.

In April, the telco announced that it would expand its fiber network to up to 100 of what it calls candidate cities and municipalities nationwide, including 21 new major metropolitan areas.

Earlier the telco was engaged in advanced discussions with the North Carolina Next Generation Network (NCNGN), a regional initiative focused on stimulating the deployment of next-generation networks to North Carolina.

"Because we had plans to put more U-verse out there, we decided to accelerate the announcement of our willingness to do Gigapower so we could redirect the U-verse dollars to Gigapower and be efficient that way," Stephens said. "We will just jump from historical technology or assets we have to Gigapower in one step as opposed to doing it in two by first going to U-verse and then going to Gigapower."

In addition to Dallas, AT&T will work with other local government agencies to drive efficiencies in gaining rights of way, easements and permitting.

Unlike the initial days when it began rolling out its U-verse product in 2005, Stephens said that communities are now more willing to work with AT&T to bring value-added broadband services to their residents and business owners.

"There's a change in the view of us and of them that they really desire this service for as many of their citizens as possible as opposed to being willing to deny it to citizens unless someone is willing to just build the capabilities to everybody," he said. "Secondly, there's a realization that the economics that building it everywhere does not make economic sense and a company can't afford to do that so the city's realization of that makes it much easier to get things going and move forward with it."

Although he did not specifically mention Google Fiber (NASDAQ: GOOG), Stephens added that the streamlined permitting process that companies like that have gotten to deploy fiber-based broadband has helped AT&T in working with local government agencies.

"To some extent some of the other participants have caused that to happen that don't have the legacy regulatory relationships that we have," Stephens said.

For more:
- listen to the webcast (reg. req.)

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