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Time Warner Cable sees the Google Fiber threat and offers Austin free Wi-Fi

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Competition is grand. With Google planning to build out a fiber-to-the-home network(s goog) in Austin, Texas next year, the local incumbent broadband providers are tweaking their models. AT&T has threatened to build its own fiber to the home,(s t) gigabit network provided it gets the same concessions from state and city officials that Google did. And Time Warner Cable(s twc)? Well, it’s offering Austin subscribers free Wi-Fi.

In a blog post Wednesday evening, Time Warner said that existing customers with its standard cable package or above can log onto a city-wide Wi-Fi network the cable company is building out. Why now? Time Warner cites Google Fiber’s plans as a reason to kick its free Wi-Fi project into gear.

We’ve been rolling out our free WiFi network across our footprint for some time now, as part of our larger strategy to offer significantly more value to our Internet subscribers. Austin was in the game plan for 2013. But Google’s recent announcement encouraged us to deploy our network more aggressively now. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, we’re ready to compete.

While paying $70 for 30 Mbps internet service from Time Warner Cable and now getting free Wi-Fi around town is nice, if Google offers me a deal where I get a gigabit connection for anywhere near the Kansas City price tag of $70, free Wi-Fi isn’t going to stop me. It won’t even make me pause.

Still while, I wait to hear where Google will deploy fiber and how much it will cost, I’ll gladly check out the TWC Wi-Fi network. So far it’s only in a few locations, but the company plans to expand it around town. Customers can sign into the network, called TWC WiFi and use same username/password combo they use sign log into their account. Non subscribers can also pay $2.95 per hour for access. Subscribers also get access to other Wi-Fi networks in cities including New York City; Los Angeles; Chicago; Philadelphia; Atlanta; Baltimore; Boston; Washington, D.C.; San Francisco; Orlando; Kansas City; and Charlotte.

As far as responses to the threat of Google Fiber go, Time Warner’s is immediate and measured, especially when compared to AT&T’s. AT&T — with its fiber-to-the-node connections that currently top out at 24 Mbps — has a lot less than TWC has to offer when it comes to fending Google’s gigabit speeds. And after the 2009 experiment in broadband caps that Time Warner Cable attempted in Austin, it’s nice to have the city singled out for a benefit instead of a punitive pricing plan.

15 Responses to “Time Warner Cable sees the Google Fiber threat and offers Austin free Wi-Fi”

  1. TWC’s last mile is trash. Always has been – always will be. As a small business here in Austin looking forward to ditching TWC and their god-awful service. I’ll pay *more* for Google Fiber. I simply hate TWC.

  2. elfonblog

    Stacey: where did AT&T ever say they were going to offer gigabit fiber to residential customers citywide? Never! Weeks later, I am still exasperated at journalists who still won’t unpack precisely what AT&T said in their press release.

    AT&T, who are currently running new fiber around town for their own purposes, have only said that they want the same deal Google may have gotten, as they proceed with the current project. They’re whining. YES, it was written such as to suggest that they were eager to follow in Google’s footsteps with a competing service, but in fact they said nothing of the kind.

    AT&T says they’re “prepared” to build “infrastructure” made out of fiber and running at gigabit speeds. Woo-hoo. That’s neither a change in their current plans, nor a promise to do something. They’re jockeying with the city in order to finish their project cheaper, and there are implications that they could use such a deal to get out of providing any service at all in unprofitable neighborhoods. They sincerely want to dump all of their land lines in favor of wireless. They are bound by obligations to wire up nearly any citizen who requests service. But Google can hook up anyone they choose, starting with the most profitable and convenient. AT&T wants that part of the deal as well as the lowered costs and streamlined permit process.

    Yet still, journalists are casually writing things like “AT&T, who promptly announced they would provide a similar gigabit fiber-to-the-home service…” NO! Journalize this, someone! You’re missing the real story in your eagerness to write keywords that would uprank your article along with everyone else.

  3. Stacey, this is really just SOP to keep the oligarchy in tact.

    While some people will want the wireless, its really not that useful as you say. In reality their Roadrunner Turbo is about 1/3 more expensive than it should be in Central Austin. Their technology investment must have paid off a couple of year ago here.

    I live about a mile up South 1st from Austin City Hall. Apart from using a 4g variation, or Clear, I only have ONE choice, TWC. No AT&T, no Grande. Given the poles and everything are in place, and even apparently S 1st has underground dark fiber cable, there is no reason why there are no alternative providers.

    I’ve reduced my TWC bill by 3/4 since they announced the ripoff we are going to charge $3 per month for the cable modem you’ve had for 6-years deal last year. I just need to find an alternate last-mile solution. I already have a wireless extender service that I can pair up with a buddy that lives in a downtown condo, so for ACL, SXSW we have our own private wifi up temporarily. the Free Network Foundation are also working towards having a complete stack for people to implement.

    So, the net net here is the tidal wave is coming. Time Warner cable needs to serious change its business practices and model,including unbundling channels on cable TV, making Turbo roadrunner the minimum service and reduce the price by at least 1/3 or in 10-years they will be irrelevant.

    My numerous blogs on this are here:

  4. T.J. Kniveton

    Once you have a gigabit connection, you might find that most of the web sites and services you use on the Internet aren’t significantly faster than TWC’s 30 Mb/s connection. This is just because the capacity of the service / web site on the other end may not be able to saturate your 1Gb/s connection or come even close. Your computer’s web browser may be more limited by the CPU’s ability to render pages more than it’s limited by the bandwidth at those higher speeds.

    When I’m sitting in my datacenter and hitting the internet over a 10Gb/s connection, i don’t see things running significantly faster than in the office with a 100 Mb/s connection.

    • elfonblog

      Yeah, but you also don’t see a perceptible slowdown when you have several hundred simultaneous connections. In other words, you’ll won’t have to go shut a bunch of services down so your phone calls don’t come through choppy.

      Seriously, you would turn down service that costs 20% less than your current service but is 100x faster just because “you won’t notice a big difference while web browsing?” That sounds like the kind of “common sense” that the established monopoly ISPs want people to get stuck on.

  5. TWC offers this in many cities including KC. Its only free to existing TWC customers, not the public. Google is rolling out truly free WiFi in KC, about 400 hotspots.

  6. Jack N Fran Farrell

    Rather than say ‘mine all mine’ Time Warner is giving back 2% of its 95% margin and cutting into ATT lucrative data plans. Users may benefit enough to renew their contracts for a few more years. Many users have been needlessly inconvenienced by the implicit coordination of the last mile monopoly. If ATT does nothing to compete with Time Warner then the cable company won’t compete with the telco. Now that Time Warner has made a move the unprovable conspriracy ends. ATT must compete with Time Warner and Google.

    • Crucifixion Cruxi

      They offer a free service for a 300$ construction fee. Here in Provo, Utah.. The existing fiber network here is only gonna cost some residents only a one time activation fee of 30$

  7. Allen Nemo

    Time Warner has continued to lobby state legislatures to prevent municipalities the freedom to provide their own broadband. And now- they want to provide wifi, but only to their customers? In what case it this a real added value proposition to their customers? I’d rather have either a lower monthly charge, or more bandwidth at home than being able to log on to wifi if I’m out.
    What a non-announcement. I’m sure they will trumpet this new service loudly, though.

  8. “Google’s recent announcement encouraged us to deploy our network more aggressively now.”

    This is just like Comcast having the ability to offer internet service to low-income families, but withholding the announcement until it was a ‘concession’ to the Comcast-NBC merger.

    How about just offering the best possible service for the best possible price so that any potential competitors walk away realizing “their service is solid and we can’t beat that price point”?

    And maybe your customers will hate you less.