by Ann Fowler
“We’ve got some exciting news: Fiber is coming to Southwest Austin in August.” That was the first line of an email sent this week by Google to local residents who had signed up to be notified of the local rollout of Google Fiber.
More than three years after announcing it was bringing a speedy 1-gigabit Internet to Austin, Google Fiber is coming to Oak Hill. Well, parts of it, anyway. The idea of downloading 25 songs in a second or an entire hour-long TV show in 3 seconds is certainly tantalizing to many local residents.
As Austinites have waited for Google Fiber to run the cable needed for its service, current providers AT&T and Time Warner have been stepping up their games to keep customers from jumping ship.
Time Warner has merged with Charter Communications and will change its name to Spectrum. No word yet on what this means to service or price, but they post, “Exciting changes are in the works, but for the time being, your services will remain unchanged.” The cable company increased Internet speed to 300 megabits per second last year—still just a third of the speed offered by Google Fiber.
AT&T launched service of “up to” 1-gigabit Internet service at the end of 2013 through its GigaPower network to keep current customers happy and entice those waiting for Google Fiber to come to their “fiber hoods.” But the fastest Internet speed offered by AT&T in some areas of Oak Hill, 45 mbps, was considerably slower than that offered by Google Fiber: download 10 songs in less than 9 seconds, download an hour-long TV show in less than 57 seconds.
The recent announcement that Google Fiber was coming to southwest Austin delighted many, while disappointing those whose neighborhoods are not yet a “fiber hood.”
Randy Clarke lives in the Estates of Loma Vista. Currently with Time Warner, he plans to sign with Google Fiber. He told us, “I’ve used [Time Warner] for years, but my wife and I have grown increasingly frustrated with their seemingly constant price increases and poor customer service. The biggest benefit of [Google Fiber] is increased competition; and I think we’re already seeing benefit from that, as other providers are stepping up their game in terms of package features and pricing.”
Justin Cone of Legend Oaks 2 is a current Time Warner customer. He said, “I currently have the fastest package that Time Warner offers—300mb, but the actual speed is much lower.”
He added, “Time Warner’s customer service is notoriously terrible and tends to point the finger at its customers rather than looking for genuine solutions.”
Cone said, “I’m planning to sign up with Google Fiber as soon as I can. I run an online community for video content creators, and I routinely have to download and upload massive video files. Internet speed and reliability are essential to my business.”
Mike Hochanadel is a resident of the Villages of Western Oaks. He is also a current Time Warner customer who said his bill has increased over the last two billing cycles. He said, “The service itself is sufficient but with the Charter/Time Warner merger I’m worried that usage caps will show up.”
Hochandadel said he plans to switch to Google Fiber—and has been waiting to do that since it was first announced.
Pratik Mhatre also lives in the Villages of Western Oaks and plans to try Google Fiber. He said, “Currently I’m with TWC. Pricewise, it may not be different, but ten times the speed is worth trying out. TWC has been fine for us—no problems as such. Since we’re a ‘cord cutter’ household, we stream all our TV and movies—so speed and reliability is important.”
One of the neighborhoods that will not be seeing Google Fiber service yet is Westcreek. Many felt it should have been included due to its proximity to Patton Elementary and Small Middle schools.
Westcreek resident Robin Mayfield expressed disappointment at being excluded: “I’m very upset that I can’t get it yet. I don’t like that Time Warner has a monopoly. I have had horrible experiences with their poor customer service.”
Mayfield says the Internet connection through Time Warner is “very fast and mostly reliable,” but feels she is overcharged for the large number of TV channels provided that she never watches. She said, “I am looking forward to the competition of Google and I respect Google as a company. Who knows, I might end up liking Time Warner’s products better, but I would like to be able to have a choice. We have been under a monopoly now forever with our cable and to me that is not the way our country was designed to work.”
Not all Time Warner customers are ready to jump ship. Glenn Ross of Western Oaks said, “We haven’t made a decision yet. You won’t be surprised to hear that it will come down to the price. At some point in the future I’ll compare my current provider, Time Warner, to Google—and then we’ll make a decision.”