AT&T said it's close to a deal with the North Carolina government to increase Internet speeds up to one gigabit per second to six North Carolina cities.
The cities, which include Chapel Hill and Raleigh, have issued a request for proposals to which AT&T responded. It plans to offer the service in Carrboro, Cary, Chapel Hill, Durham, Raleigh and Winston-Salem. A speed of 1Gbps is about 10 times the current fastest speed in the state.
AT&T is working with the North Carolina Next Generation Network, a group formed by the municipalities and four local universities, to encourage the building of high-speed networks.
Lori Lee, senior executive vice president of AT&T Home Solutions, said her company is waiting for those communities to approve the agreement with AT&T, which has "trucks ready to roll," she said.
The planned effort in North Carolina will involve expanding the network into new areas and upgrading in places where service is already offered. AT&T's U-verse is a fiber-based network, but typically uses copper wire to make the final connections to buildings.
Last month, AT&T Chief Executive Randall Stephenson said the company's work in Austin, Texas, which it recently upgraded to 1 Gbps, has encouraged the company to be "a little more aggressive and assertive in deploying that technology around the country."
AT&T is also concerned the proposed merger of Comcast Corporation and Time Warner Cable will create a significant new rival for AT&T's broadband and pay-TV services. AT&T plans to make the upgrades in cities where it can get terms that are favorable.
"The cost dynamics of this deployment have been really, really encouraging," Stephenson said.
The build-out brings more competition into services that have long been dominated by cable operators that have proven reluctant to ramp up Internet speeds. AT&T said it will only offer the high-speed service where there is demand.