We knew it was coming several months ago. At first, just from flimsy rumors, but then mention of the free Time Warner speed upgrade began showing up on credible news sites. Credible enough for me to call Time Warner and find out where these upgrades would take place. When I found out that our small town of Taylor, Texas was included in the upgrade area, I became separated by only 3 degrees from Happy Dance.
When my euphoria dropped to a more manageable level, I took some time to mull it over. Specifically, I was asking myself why Time Warner would include small towns almost fifty miles away from the city in this upgrade? I mean…gifts, horses, mouths and all that. I thought it was a legitimate question.
I wasn’t able to make any sense of it until someone ‘splained it to me.
Bill and I have been friends for a couple of years now. He lives just eight minutes down the road from me, makes his living as a website designer and is a programmer proficient in several languages.
I caught up with Bill in the Home Depot in his town of Hutto, Texas and asked if he knew of the Time Warner free upgrade. He said yes, but he was still moving to Austin, into one of the two sure-fire Google fiberhoods — as sure-fire as construction workers already laying fiber cable in front of his new home. Since he was due to receive upgrade speeds of 300 Mbps where he presently lived, I wondered if that was enough for him to stay.
“Uh, no,” he said. “Not even close.”
Bill works from home and he lives or dies by the speed and stability of his Internet connection. I couldn’t imagine speeds up to 100+ Mbps until last week, and I surely cannot imagine gigabit speed. Bill can, and it seems that shortly, he will have it.
And that’s why Time Warner is extending their speed upgrades to towns 50 miles outside of Austin.
Time Warner is already beginning to hemorrhage customers due to Google Fiber rolling-out in two large areas of Austin. Not to be outdone, AT&T also polluted the airwaves in an attempt to make us believe they have already stepped into the age of gigabit, with an advertising campaign that was misleading at best. Their gigabit service only covers a few square blocks.
As of now, Grande Communications, a much smaller ISP and cable company than Time Warner, is offering a ridiculously low price for their TV and gigabit plan. A word of warning though…this is an “introductory offer.” Grande customers signing on to this plan might be in for a rude awakening if they haven’t read their contract closely enough.
So, is it worth uprooting your family for insanely high Internet speeds? Is it worth changing school districts for your kids, leaving close friends behind and maybe getting less house for your money? Bill thinks so…and so do a number of others where Bill works.
Oh…did I mention that Bill worked for Time Warner until last May? He was a manager for the Austin area last mile technicians. He attended a flurry of meetings last spring, to discuss the action and posture Time Warner should take.
The plan is to increase present Time Warner customers with a free upgrade to stop what is now jokingly referred to as “The Kansas City Massacre.” They are counting on fuzzy numbers and the tech ignorance of their customer base. Time Warner wants to assure them that 300 Mbps is competitive to gigabit speeds. Bill said that at one point, Kansas City subscribers were leaving Time Warner by hundreds a week. The only reason it tapered off was due to not enough houses and apartments being available in the areas where gigabit speeds are available…areas which report a definite spike in new home building and sales.
I am sure that Google already suspected their action would have unintended consequences…such as rental prices increasing 10 to 20 percent in the fiberhoods and at least a 10 percent drop in rental prices in the bedroom communities.
And we’re beginning to see that same behavior here. Fiber connectivity is a big deal for many people. Big enough to prompt professionals who rely on the speed and stability of their Internet connection to move to obtain that speed and stability.
And me? Would I move? No…my life and my nonprofit are deeply rooted here. Not to mention that Diane and I love this little town. And yeah, I make fun of Taylor from time to time, but it’s all done in the name of satire. Besides, I now get anywhere from 100 to 120 Mbps. That ought to be enough for anybody.
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