It has been interesting to watch the responses of the two companies impacted most by Google Fiber's deployments: AT&T and Time Warner Cable. Both companies have fought competition tooth and nail over the years, and now that they're finally staring a little bit of it in the face, their responses have very much matched their corporate character. AT&T's response to Google Fiber entering the Austin market was fiber to the press release
, claiming that they would have offered 1 Gbps already if it weren't for the mean government, and that they may offer 1 Gbps eventually -- if the mean government allows it.
Time Warner Cable has taken a slightly different tack, instead trying to shift the discussion away from the fact people think they pay too much for too little, and toward whether or not people actually need 1 Gbps.
The company has so far insisted that demand simply isn't there for symmetrical 1 Gbps connections for $70
, ignoring the fact that the 1 Gbps mark is rather irrelevant -- since demand is
there for faster, cheaper, better connections. Or hey, even just connections that don't magically sprout new and obnoxious fees
every so often.
Continuing this narrative, Time Warner Cable penned a blog post yesterday
in which the company argues that Google Fiber is really no big deal because gosh, they've been competing fiercely with a ton of companies for like, years:
Let’s just call this what it is: a big, fat chunk of competition. We’re used to that. I know that there’s a dominant perception outside of the industry that we’re a bunch of dinosaurs ignoring our growing rat problem, but that’s not the case. In every city where we provide service, we face at least two competitors: satellite and the telephone company. In many cities, we face five or six competitors. We’ve been competing since the early ’90s.
Wow, five or six! The company claimed they do battle with eight competitors at any given time just last September
. I bet many of you didn't know you had it so good. Here on planet Earth, there's many markets where Time Warner Cable sees absolutely no competition whatsoever
. In many others, the closest they get to competition is either an under-funded rural telco stuck in 1999 (here's a 1.5 Mbps DSL line for $60, plus the cost of a mandatory landline!) or over-priced, heavily capped, incredibly slow satellite broadband. That's not really competition, it's more like business slaughter.
In many cities, we face five or six competitors. We’ve been competing since the early ’90s.
-Time Warner Cable
From there, Time Warner Cable proceeds to insist that the blistering-fast speeds aren't really that big of a deal either, because Time Warner Cable has kind of offered connections that aren't really all that similar at nowhere near the same price:
We help schools, hospitals, and businesses connect with multi-gig speeds over dedicated fiber networks. We just put in our own bid in North Carolina to build a next-gen network with speeds up to 1Gbps, too. You can see that press release here.
The company fails to note that the only reason the network they're bidding on (the North Carolina Next Generation Network
) is being built is because companies like Time Warner Cable wouldn't offer those kinds of speeds at reasonable prices. Time Warner Cable also conveniently omits their history or
bribing lobbying state officials to pass laws banning towns and cities
from building their own ultra-fast networks, even in instances where nobody else will. It took four tries
to force one of their protectionist bills into law in North Carolina. Yes Time Warner Cable, you're a real hero.
Then of course we come back full circle, with the company claiming that people really don't need 1 Gbps, because customers aren't signing up for Time Warner Cable's existing fastest service:
It is also worth pointing out that only a small fraction of our residential customers who have DOCSIS 3.0 speeds available to them actually subscribe to the product. Today, our broadband options are designed to meet almost any budget or household need.
Granted Time Warner Cable doesn't offer more than 50 Mbps in many markets, and they might see more uptick if they weren't busily charging an arm and a leg for it. Again, whether users need
1 Gbps isn't the question. The question is whether or not consumers want something better and cheaper
than what they're currently being offered by Time Warner Cable, and the answer is an earth-shaking yes. Don't get bogged down in this discussion over whether you need a gig, because it's a red herring designed to distract you from the issues at hand.
If you're losing sleep over whether or not little Time Warner Cable can hold on under the onslaught of eight hallucinated competitors worry not! The company says whatever happens, they'll battle onward valiantly:
Change can be scary, but it’s ultimately a good thing. Henry Ford once said that the car was bad for the buggywhip business. Ultimately, competition is good for us. It’s going to make us evolve, change, grow in ways that keep us at the cutting edge. And really, the biggest winner out of all of this will be the consumer. More choice and more options are better for everyone.
Well except that none of that will actually happen because Google Fiber will likely only ever reach a handful of cities
, meaning Time Warner Cable can go right on enjoying limited competition and sky-high prices across 98.5% of its footprint. The company knows Google Fiber likely won't expand to more than a handful of cities
, so, like AT&T
, all they're really
faced with is putting on a bit of competitive theater in a small handful of markets. Given years of experience, I imagine they'll be able to handle that particular obstacle with aplomb.