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  • What it’s like to take on Google Fiber in Nashville: One firm’s take

    May 17, 2016
  • Apr 20, 2016, 2:13pm CDT Updated

    Eleanor Kennedy

    For more than two years, Nashvillians have salivated over the eventual arrival of Google Fiber, super high-speed internet courtesy of one of the world’s most idolized tech companies.

    But while Google has yet to share specifics on when that network will officially launch in Music City, other players have made their own moves. Most notably, legacy telecoms AT&T and Comcast have launched their own networks, but smaller players like Shelbyville-based Athena Broadband are also getting in on the gigabit game. The emergence of all kinds of gigabit offerings proves two things: First, Google’s impending arrival has, as expected, increased the overall prevalence of gigabit in the community (a boon for Google’s traditional web search business); second, Google’s cool cachet doesn’t always win in the quest to surf faster.

    “People want fast internet,” said, Josh Lynch, Athena’s owner. The specifics of where it comes from and what it’s called aren’t always as important, he said.

    Athena’s primary service markets are southeast of Nashville, in areas like Shelbyville and Murfreesboro. But infrastructure needs mean the company already has some fiber running through Nashville, Lynch said, which made things fairly simple when Athena set up a network at the Bristol West End condos in Midtown.

    That development’s board had negotiated with Google Fiber, according to a February resident newsletter obtained by the Nashville Business Journal. After the group’s attorney “reviewed Google’s contract and advised [they] not sign as is,” Google rejected proposed revisions and the board moved on to other offers, the newsletter says.

    But late last month, CPi alerted residents that Athena would start installing a fiber network offering speeds of either 100 megabits per second for $70 a month (which has since been upgraded to 250 mbps), or one gigabit per second for $80 a month. The latter price is $10 more expensive than Google Fiber’s comparable offering in other markets; Google charges an installation fee (which can be waived with a one-year commitment), however, and Athena does not.

    “I think there’s room for smaller companies,” Lynch said, adding that Athena has been in conversations with other developments where it might also install its fiber service.

    As for the other big players in the space, Lynch said it’s not too daunting to compete with the likes of Google, Comcast and AT&T. Speeds and prices are generally comparable, he said, especially when accounting for differences in installation fees, and as a local company Athena can tout the value of hiring a nearby company that’s easier to work with over a corporate giant.

    “It’s such a big market,” Lynch said — not to mention everyone needs internet. Plus, with the customer service horror stories that abound across the telecom industry, any company can usually find receptive customers somewhere.

    “Everybody dislikes somebody,” Lynch said.

    Eleanor Kennedy covers Nashville’s health care and technology industries.

    Source: Nashville Business Journal