AUSTIN, TX, February 10, 2014 — Grande Communications is nowhere near as big as Google or AT&T. But that hasn’t stopped the small, San Marcos-based company from beating its two much larger competitors in bringing super-fast Internet to Austinites. Grande is set to announce Monday that it will begin offering customers in parts of West Austin speeds of up to 1 gigabit this week. That’s well ahead of AT&T’s and Google’s planned launches of high-speed service, which were both announced last year. At 1 gigabit, a user could download 25 songs in 1 second, a TV show in 3 seconds and a high-definition movie in less than 36 seconds, according to data from AT&T.
Purchased by itself, Grande’s new Internet service will cost $65 per month with no contract required, Grande President Matt Murphy told the American-Statesman. The price will decrease when the Internet service is bundled with the company’s other offerings, such as cable TV and home phone service. AT&T’s prices will start at $70, the company said. Murphy said the bump in speed is, in part, an effort to fend off AT&T and Google. “There’s a certain sizzle to 1 gigabit that people are excited about,” he said. “We’re nimble and able to do things faster. We’re consciously doing this to beat Google. “We’ve always made a dedicated effort to have the fastest Internet speeds in all the areas we serve, and that’s what we’re doing here.” Murphy wouldn’t disclose how much money Grande spent to upgrade its network, saying only that Grande invests “millions each year in network delivery and new customer growth capital, and this was a subset of that.” The service will initially be available to about a quarter of the 75,000 homes and businesses in the Austin area that are wired for Grande’s service, including the Belmont, Rosedale, Bryker Woods, Pemberton Heights, Tarrytown, Oakmont Heights and Old Enfield neighborhoods. It’d be “a home run,” Murphy said, if just 10 percent of customers take advantage of the 1-gigabit offering. AT&T has identified some of the same neighborhoods, including Bryker Woods, Old Enfield and Tarrytown, as areas where it will roll out its 1-gigabit U-verse with GigaPower service.
Grande customers with older packages who don’t live in the areas where its 1-gigabit Internet service will initially be available will still see their speeds bumped up soon at no additional cost, Murphy said. Based on demand, Murphy said the company could potentially make the 1-gigabit service available to most, if not all, of its customers in Austin and San Antonio, as well as its San Marcos home base. No definite timeline has been set for doing so, he said. All new housing developments in Austin that are wired for Grande service from now on will have the option of getting 1-gigabit capabilities, Murphy said. That includes downtown’s Seaholm project and several large apartment complexes in the works around town. The company is also in the process of wiring the Rainey Street area, Murphy said.
Without providing exact figures, AT&T on Friday said sales of U-verse with GigaPower, which is set to be phased in this year in certain parts of Central Texas, including the Mueller development, have been robust. Already, AT&T has boosted speeds in parts of Austin as high as 300 Mbps. “There is no question that Austinites are hungry for fast speeds, and consumer choice is always a positive,” said Dahna Hull, Austin vice president and general manager for AT&T Services Inc. “In fact, sales of U-verse with GigaPower have surpassed our expectations and are the reason we are expanding service to twice as many Austin households in 2014.” Austinites, Hull said, “consume data at rates 15 percent to 20 percent higher than the average U-verse user.” A Google representative didn’t respond Friday to a request for comment.
The company hasn’t yet announced which areas in Austin it will serve. It has set up a website, fiber.google.com/cities/austin, where residents can lobby to have their neighborhood selected. Meanwhile, Time Warner Cable, the area’s dominant cable service provider, hasn’t committed to joining its competitors in offering 1-gigabit service, but said it is planning to increase Internet speeds in Central Texas by an unspecified amount. “Time Warner Cable customers can be confident we’ll be offering faster speeds and great value in the future,” spokeswoman Melissa Sorola said via email. “In the last couple of years, we’ve added more to our broadband connection, including better content like our TWC TV app, the newly added Showtime Anytime app and now access to free public Wi-Fi in more places including 1,350 free TWC Wi-Fi hotspots in Austin.” More than 1,000 more hotspots are set to come online this year, Sorola said. While admitting the resources AT&T and Google have at their disposal dwarf Grande’s — Murphy said he suspects the two companies’ marketing expenditures alone cost more than Grande’s annual revenue — he said Grande is prepared to take on the big boys. In total, Grande has about 150,000 customers — all in Texas — while AT&T U-verse has in excess of 6 million high-speed Internet subscribers scattered across the nation. “All this competition is great for customers,” Murphy said. “We’re ready to impress.” Austin’s race to 1 gigabit • Grande Communications: Launches this week • AT&T: Mid-2014 • Google: Mid-2014
By Gary Dinges — American-Statesman Staff Austin American-Statesman www.mystatesman.com
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