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October 14th, 2014

What Would You Do for a Gigabyte Internet Connection?

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.

Google Internet gigabyte fiberWhen 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 writes and publishes The Blog of Helios, a finalist in our Best FOSS or Linux Blog competition. In addition, he's the person behind the Reglue project, which refurbishes older computers and gives them to disadvantaged school kids in the Austin, Texas area. Follow him on Twitter @Reglue

7 comments to What Would You Do for a Gigabyte Internet Connection?

  • Colonel Panik

    When we moved to Deming, NM we lost that FttH we had over on
    the TX border. Went all the way down to satellite internet.

    The whole town here, and most of the county are fibred up
    because of the huge presence of secret gubmint acronyms.
    The towns citizens are not sharing in this. Stupid, this
    town is dying and maybe some big pipes would help.

    If we ever move again it will be to a community that has
    had the intestinal fortitude to build it’s own muni-fibre
    system.

    As much as I am NOT a fan of Google I sure enjoy how they
    disrupt the cable/phone monopoly.

  • Justin Gross

    Gigabit not Gigabyte.

  • Thomas

    Not even Google fiber is offering Giga”byte” internet, yet. 🙂

  • I’ve also noticed “free speed upgrades” In the college town less than half an hour from where I currently live. Where I live, CenturyLink is the most viable option and 10 Mbps is the highest speed available. Here’s to hoping that will increase in the coming months.

  • dr

    Well, first I’d have to buy a VERY expensive router to take of advantage of that 8Gbps connection 🙂

  • tracyanne

    That depends on how much data I get with that 1GB connection speed. 3Gig (which is apparently considered a huge amount by broadband providers over here) or even 10 gig wouldn’t be enough. But with sufficient data I would be able to backup all of my data (encrypted, of course, before it left the computer) in a reasonable time frame.

    At the moment I have only the most important stuff, that I can’t continue to function without, backed up to a cloud service, and even though it’s only a piddling amount, it takes forever to restore (as became necessary last week) over my current wireless BB connection.

  • Duncan

    @tracyanne

    Good point. That is actually what has kept me on cable (Cox) here, as even with my cheap “essential” connection (5/1 Mbit down/up, but Cox says all plans will soon double in speed), Cox’s “data plan” allows 100 GByte/mo, and that’s just a guideline — Cox doesn’t throttle or charge extra, and they won’t force you to upgrade unless you’re consistently way over that. They send you an email suggesting you check your usage and that you may want to upgrade to something more appropriate if you continue to use that sort of bandwidth. That’s it. And realistically, if you’re using more than a hundred gig/mo, something more like the 50 Mbit preferred tier is only about $15/mo more, for 10 times the speed and a data plan of 250 gig /is/ probably going to make you happier.

    Meanwhile, while mobile would be much more flexible, allowing me to use mobile tablets, etc, to fit in the budget I’d have to drop cable, and there seems to be a severe shortage of anyone offering even a gig a day, 30 gigs a month (the minimum I figure I could reasonably tolerate), on mobile. Some say “unlimited” but they either don’t include tethering or severely throttle after something piddly like 5 GB. Every few years I check back, but other than Sprint, nobody seems to offer anything even close. Sprint took awhile to get here with their 4G and the unlimited offer, but it does seem to be here now. Maybe I’ll have to check on them one of these days.

    And the incumbent land-line telco doesn’t seem to offer any better (tho they do have a better server policy, and being the former uswest turned qwest turned centurylink, they do get points for sticking up for customers when the other telcos laid flat and let the warrantless data taps right in) and screwed me around for /months/ on service at one point, so now I do third-party VoIP over cox and have nothing to do with the telco, tho I do like to keep my options open.

    Back on the gigabit topic, Cox is advertizing GigaBlast speeds, 1 Gbit both ways, 1 TByte bandwidth plan, coming soon, too. 1 TB isn’t too unreasonable for a bandwidth plan, tho I do have to wonder, if I’m running close to my 100 GB plan with a 5/1 Mbit connection, a TB is “only” 10 times that, while speeds are 200 times that for download and 1000 times that for upload, so what gives with the skimpy data plan?

    FWIW, the current top tier is “ultimate”, 150/20 Mbit, 400 GB data plan. And they’re saying tier speeds will soon double, so that’d presumably be 300/40 by the time gigablast hits.

    Ultimate is $100/mo. So gigablast would probably be $150/mo or so, minus the usual promotional discounts for the first few months to a year…