The demand for high-speed Internet has service providers scrambling to both satisfy customers and beat the competition.
Internet users across the country hungry for high-speed Internet, and so far the field of service providers is locked in a very close race. The faster Internet gets, the faster customers want it to be. As soon as one company ups their speeds, a competitor leapfrogs past them.
The product customers want is obvious: super-fast Internet capable of streaming media (movies and TV shows) without disruptions, and supporting seamless online gaming, at a low cost. The trouble is that the broadband and wireless companies in the running are having a hard time meeting that demand.
But there are some current winners and losers in the arms race to win the high-speed Internet war. There are also some interesting dark horses — up-and-comers to keep an eye on for a good deal as they roll out their services.
Google Fiber vs. Time Warner
Google has been experimenting with its super-fast fiber optic network, Google Fiber, for a couple years. In the last few months, though, plans have become a reality. Google Fiber offers Gigabit (1000 Mbps, or 1 Gig) speeds, which is 25 times faster than the minimum broadband speed. The service is rolling out in 18 new cities in the Atlanta, Charlotte, Nashville and Raleigh-Durham metro areas.
Close on their heels, Time Warner announced it too will offer higher Internet speeds to customers in these same markets. Time Warner says their new Internet will be six times faster than it has been. The company has also started offering free speed upgrades, from the current 50 Mbps to 300 Mbps, to customers in Charlotte (a Google Fiber city).
That’s not terribly close to Google’s 1000 Mbps. But, if Time Warner can step up the speed, then given the fact that it already has inroads in many more cities and metro areas around the country, it could end giving Google Fiber some competition instead of only the other way around.
Plus, given that Google Fiber is still a work in progress, Time Warner is looking like the current winner. Even if only by a hair for the time being.
Comcast and AT&T
The other big names in the Internet Service Provider space, Comcast and AT&T, are also feeling the pull of the fiber.
AT&T was forced to lower its gigabit Internet service by $50, from $120 to $70 per month, in North Carolina after Google Fiber moved in.
Comcast has announced that they’ve actually one-upped Google. The company says they will begin offering households Internet speeds twice as fast as Google Fiber’s fastest, and a whopping 200 times faster than most Americans have today. The catch is that it won’t be available until next year, and geographic restrictions and price will probably bump it from most customer’s short list.
Don’t discount the independents
It isn’t just big-name and billion-dollar companies that are entering the high-speed Internet race. Small towns are also throwing down and trying to gain a subscriber base.
In Oregon, even though Google Fiber is slated to arrive on the scene, several local towns are researching the possibility of building their own independent network capable of delivering a comparable service.
Portland suburbs, including Hillsboro, Lake Oswego, Gresham and West Linn, are in the process of assessing their options to build a fiber-optic network with similar mega-speeds. If it’s possible to do so, and to offer the service at a lower cost than Google Fiber or other big companies, then towns could have a winner on their hands.
Other dark horses and start-ups waiting in the wings will have to overcome some serious disadvantages. But they just might find a way to meet a rapidly growing demand, from average households to mobile users to those interested in cutting the cable cord.