Monopolies are like porn. I can’t describe one to you but I know one when I see it. OK, so maybe the term monopoly is technically incorrect in this instance…but not by much. In my area of service it’s Time Warner Roadrunner, AT&T DSL or nothing. While there is competition, there isn’t anyone that can deliver the same speeds as Time Warner, making the price difference between the two services make sense.
The idealist would say that this is a good situation. There are products to serve almost everyone, regardless of income. You get what you pay for and when you pay less you should expect to receive less.
AT&T offers their basic DSL service starting at $14.95 a month. People might ask themselves why it’s so inexpensive when compared to Time Warner Roadrunner service. If they had a chance to run each service side by side the answer would be obvious. But it’s not all bad. The AT&T customer gains the opportunity to learn a new technological term — buffering.
However, the future just got real for Time Warner in Austin, Texas. Google Fiber has rolled into town and a big deal is being made over it. The local news has been generous and loud with their coverage of Google Fiber. They demonstrate the speed differences with gusto. Time Warner is attempting to stem the flow of customers leaving by offering to upgrade existing customers for free. Yeah, that’s right, for free. This coming from the company that refused to work with us to bring Internet access to financially challenged kids in Austin.
This is what they’ve come up with:
“Time Warner Cable today announced that it will be significantly raising internet speeds for its customers in the Austin area. These customers will not have to pay any extra money for these new speeds, but will see their download speeds, in some cases, rise by over 600%. The speed increase will begin rolling out to customers sometime this summer.”
When I heard that the Austin area was going to get these free speed upgrades I had conflicting reactions. I was happy for Austin but not so much for our little town. We are too far away from Austin to get in on this. Further searching proved me wrong.
“Along with Austin, the additional areas receiving these new speeds include Round Rock, Cedar Park, Leander, San Marcos, Elgin, Marble Falls, Lockhart, Bastrop, Fredericksburg, Taylor, Smithville, Wimberley, Liberty Hill, Lago Vista, Buda, Kyle, Elroy, and Lakeway.”
Yep, Taylor, Texas most certainly qualifies as being in the Austin area. Giddiness and fuzzy warmth enveloped me. If there weren’t people in line-of-sight proximity, happy dances would have ensued. We will be raised from 20 down and 1.5 up to 50 down and 2.5 up. I can live with that. Then I got to thinking…
If all Time Warner customers are getting bumped up one tier it might be a good idea to pay for the next upgrade now so when this starts happening we will be upgraded from 50 Mbps to 100 Mbps. That sounds like a good investment, right? Yeah, I thought so too.
So I went to the Time Warner website and found the customer service chat link and clicked it. My voice is messed up by radiation treatments so trying to talk to me can be frustrating. But my voice isn’t nearly as frustrating as the message my computer monitor was displaying:
You gotta be kidding me…right?
I know for an absolute fact that Time Warner’s backbone is made up of Linux and Unix servers. And they want to tell me that I need a Windows system to access their online chat support?
The problem is, who does one call to correct this? Tech support is useless. I don’t care who you get passed onto in the support ladder, they’re going to tell you that they have no control over matters like this. Trust me…I’ve tried.
I am going to attempt to run the tech support gauntlet and see what I can learn about this. I am fully expecting the same old, tired line, “the number of Linux users subscribing to our service doesn’t justify the added expense of making these changes.”
It may take a while but I will most certainly report back here with my findings. If you have any insight into this, tell us in the comments. What proprietary software or system is Time Warner using that it would exclude Linux? There are a lot of people way smarter than me and I bet some of them have answers. Your input will help.
Ken Starks is the founder of the Helios Project and Reglue, which for 20 years provided refurbished older computers running Linux to disadvantaged school kids, as well as providing digital help for senior citizens, in the Austin, Texas area. He was a columnist for FOSS Force from 2013-2016, and remains part of our family. Follow him on Twitter: @Reglue