GAME ON, GOOGLE
AT&T plans its own high-speed Internet service in Austin: Communications giant AT&T said last week that it plans to roll out blazing-fast Internet speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second to residential and business customers in Austin – the same speeds Google Fiber is set to offer next year.
AT&T’s current maximum speed is 45 Mbps, a spokeswoman said. That will be boosted to a maximum of 300 Mbps by December, followed by a final bump to a maximum of 1 gigabit by mid-2014.
Austin will be the first U.S. city where AT&T will offer the service, which will be known as U-verse with GigaPower, Dahna Hull, vice president and general manager of Austin AT&T Services, said. Other cities will follow, she said, but AT&T isn’t prepared yet to release where it will target next.
At 1 gigabit, a user could download seven songs in 1 second, a TV show in 9 seconds and a high-definition movie in less than two minutes, AT&T said.
Like Google Fiber, AT&T’s U-verse with GigaPower won’t be available in all parts of Austin. Also like Google, AT&T will allow Central Texans to help decide where it will be deployed. Residents who already have AT&T’s U-verse service are not necessarily guaranteed to have access to the new higher speeds, but AT&T says it expects “tens of thousands” of them to be able to upgrade to the 1-gigabit service.
In April, plans for the ultrafast Google Fiber service were unveiled with considerable fanfare, with city of Austin officials and Gov. Rick Perry on hand for the announcement. Austin was the second U.S. city to be chosen for the service, and experts predicted it would trigger a new wave of startups and bolster the area’s reputation as a center for innovation.
At the time, AT&T officials said they were prepared to bring a similar high-speed service to the Austin area, but did not reveal any specific plans. Making the move now isn’t meant to fend off any challenge Google might pose, Hull said, but instead it’s a progression of the offerings AT&T has been offering Central Texans for more than 100 years.
HOUSING STILL HOT
Austin-area housing starts surge in 3rd quarter: Central Texas builders started construction on more than 2,600 homes in the third quarter, pushing housing starts to their highest level for that quarter in six years, the latest figures show.
In its quarterly report, Metrostudy said the 2,639 starts bumped the annual total to 9,290 starts for the 12 months that ended in September. That’s up 30 percent from the 12 months that ended September 2012, and is the fastest annual pace since June 2008, said Madison Inselmann, regional director for Metrostudy’s Austin market.
The quarterly pace was up 12 percent from the same quarter last year. It was the strongest third-quarter number since 2007, when builders started work on 3,217 homes in July through September of that year, Inselmann said.
Low supplies of new and existing homes, as well as rental housing, continues to strengthen pricing in the the region, said Metrostudy, a national housing information and consulting firm. Houses in the Austin area rose 7.7 percent in value during the past 12 months, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
The median new-home price in the third quarter was nearly $247,000, an 8 percent increase from the previous year, Metrostudy said.
“Austin’s consistently strong job growth and recent population influx have absorbed much of the available inventory and have driven Austin’s new home price to the highest in the state,” Inselmann said.