When Google said it was going to bring its high-speed fiber optic service to Austin, it probably didn't expect to touch off a race to switch on the cheapest, fastest Internet service around. But within a year of announcing the move, AT&T followed suit. And now a third company has beaten them both.
Grande Communications, a 10-year-old provider based a half hour away in San Marcos, Tex., is rolling out full gigabit fiber to seven neighborhoods in west Austin next week. Gigabit service customers will benefit from speeds up to 100 times the national average. The company's service won't require a contract, doesn't impose data caps and vows to obey net neutrality principles. At $65 a month, it'll be more affordable than either Google or AT&T's offerings — and it'll come with fewer strings attached.
Absent additional competition, Comcast and CenturyLink are clearly not going to make the investments necessary to give Seattle residents the high-speed affordable service we want and need. Current speeds are "fast enough for typical residential uses," Broadband Communications Association of Washington executive director Ron Main recently argued in the Seattle Times. Main says that only 5 percent of Comcast's local customers choose to subscribe to the company's fastest 105 Mbps service, arguing that demand for higher speeds simply is not there.
Well, maybe not at $115 a month plus tax and fees. Meanwhile, Chattanooga, Tennessee's municipal broadband service is having no trouble signing up subscribers for speeds ten times faster at only $70 a month... you know, less than what Comcast charges Seattleites for 50 Mbps service.
If Google or some other company wants to step up and provide universal access to affordable high-speed Internet to every Seattle home, that would be great. But they don't. So municipal broadband may be the only way to create the broadband competition Seattle needs.