Thursday, November 21, 2013

Austin Chooses 100 Community Locations for Free Gigabit Fiber

KUT Radio brings us the list of free beneficiaries for that sweet, sweet Google Fiber! It numbers exactly 100 sites throughout the Austin Metro area and includes every public library (23), 13 out of 135 AISD schools, and other sites which frankly, aren't so public.

Alas, Dawson Neighborhood's Multi-Purpose Center and health clinic did not end up on the list. It's not clear how these sites were vetted, but it's probably way too late to propose any candidates now. The Austin City Council will vote to make the list official Thursday, Nov 21 (tomorrow).

Below is a Google mash-up map I made showing all of the sites involved. I used a great tool called BatchGeo. Click on the icons to find out who is at a given spot. Folks who like Google Earth can click HERE for a database file to use with it.

View 100 Sites in Austin Getting Free Google Fiber in a full screen map

When I made this map, I was hoping to reveal something of Google's deployment plan. We know that two parts of South Austin, along Congress and Lamar, are getting the fiber cable installed first. However, the map shows no particular pattern to support this. It's pretty random, though the highest concentration is Downtown and Central Austin. 

The closest site to Dawson Neighborhood is St. Edward's University. A University, even a nonprofit one, isn't exactly a public resource. You have to qualify to attend, and then you have to pay. A lot of the other sites seem like rather niche venues too. I'm certainly not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, but I foresee most of these sites being woefully underutilized.

It would make more sense to make sure every public school was connected, before installing at job centers who already have Internet service, ballet studios, sculpture gardens, theaters, for-profit universities, and the Travis Co. Appraisal District. I assume gigabit fiber will really help the Appraisal District staff cruise around with Google Earth, and that may help the City to recover some revenue, but that's neither innovative nor disruptive (in the sense of people creating new industries).

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Google Moves Ahead With South Austin Deployment

I spoke with someone this morning, who politely asked not to be identified, and who provided me with FIRST-HAND information that Google Fiber is coming to the South Congress and South Lamar corridors first! That means us!!!! 

After completing pole inspections, they will string a main fiber along the poles, and then branch each fiber leading to homes from that. Google is on-target for providing residential service beginning early 2014. They will also be providing free service to selected public buildings like libraries. Potential customers have been asked to submit their email addresses and locations so Google can plot out areas of interest. The next step we're anticipating is placing a refundable deposit down to put our money where our mouth is. ;) Submit your email address and zip code here:

The equipment and cabling is no more intrusive than having a cable modem. They run a cable down from the pole to a box on the outside of your house. Inside, you have a box which you attach your computers onto. Google Fiber also provides service tiers with television, DVR and Wifi. Free telephone service can be arranged through Google Voice, or you can choose from hundreds of providers who charge a fraction of what Ma Bell charges.

I'm also told there is a newspaper article today where AT&T are making some noise about a competing service. I haven't read it yet, but I know their previous claims were only about whining so they could get access to the same sweet fast approval process that Google is getting. AT&T also wants Google-like terms so they can withdraw service from less-profitable neighborhoods. They're currently forced to provide service to almost everyone, as a condition for the right to operate under the protection of artificially high barriers against competition (essentially a monopoly).

Some folks have asked me why they should pay Google a flat $300 installation fee (payable in monthly $25 installments through the first year) for the 'free' Internet tier, delivering 5 megabit service for the next 7 years or more, when they can pay the fine folks at AT&T $46+fees/mo (after promo expires) for "up to" 6 megabit "Uverse Elite" service? Well, is saving $3,564.00 a bad thing?

Other folks are uncertain they'd ever have a need for a gigabit (1,000.00 megabit) Internet service for $70/mo when the fine folks at Time Warner will provide "up to" 20 megabit service for $72.04+ (est. after the promo price expires). Well... that would mean 50+ times more speed for a couple dollars less. You don't want that? You don't HAVE to use all that speed, you know. But TW will still bill you the full amount for their service, and undeniably do a lot worse at providing you the full percentage you're paying for.

AT&T and Time Warner's Internet divisions operate at a 95% or higher profit margin. Likely higher. This means that 5% or less of what they bill you for your service, pays for every expense of bringing it to you; equipment, utilities, maintenance, wages, insurance, etc. The rest is raw profit. The idea that bandwidth is expensive, and should be metered and billed by consumption, is all their way of tricking you into thinking that what you get is "affordable" and "works good enough". In the marketplace, they are creating a false shortage to drive prices up. 

That's how a cartel works, and there's a reason it's widely illegal, even when selling genuinely depletable resources like oil. Bandwidth isn't even something that gets used up. But that's the impression given by Internet providers who meter it, and who then make hay out of managing it and dealing with "abuse". It's dead simple: they ought to use a fragment of their magnificent profits to expand capacity to meet their customer's needs. Instead, they pretend that they have to raise prices due to supposedly rising costs. Not that they appreciate being asked to show their books. The truth is that costs have been steadily dropping, and they've been spending almost nothing on expanding the infrastructure.

While providing mind-staggeringly higher speeds than the establishment, and investing in brand-new state of the art cabling and equipment, Google will still break even or show a modest profit. The reason AT&T and Time Warner won't do that is: GREED. And keeping up appearances.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Case for Google Fiber in Dawson Neighborhood

Here's my attempt at a breakdown of high speed Internet services available in Dawson Neighborhood, Zip Code 78704. Several competitors I did not include were Earthlink DSL, Earthlink Cable or Clear Wireless. These 3 were consistently more expensive or encumbered. For instance, Earthlink's services simply resell Time Warner's and AT&T's, but they provide significantly lower speeds for slightly lower prices.

AT&T DSL and Uverse

Prices may vary from street to street, but at our address in 78704, AT&T provides the following tiers and prices when ordering Internet-only service:

Service Tier Advertised Monthly Monthly

Name Speed in Mbps Promo Price Regular Price

Uverse Max 12 $39.95 $51.00

Uverse Elite 6 $34.95 $46.00

DSL Pro 3 $29.95 $40.73

DSL Express 1.5 (no promos) $24.95

DSL Basic .768 (no promos) $19.95

-Service reverts to regular price after 12 months

-These prices omit substantial taxes and other fees

Gotchas: LOTS.
  • Contracts. AT&T will lock you in for a year, two years, and you'll have to keep paying a high price long after the competitors have slashed their prices. Cancel your contract, and their "early cancellation fee" will ensure that they get everything they expected to make from you, BUT now won't have to provide you with the service. My personal view is that, if they're compelled to lock you in like that, they know they're going to be doing something to make you want to leave if you were still free to do so.
  • AT&T is likely to pretend that the "classic" DSL tiers are no longer offered. They're WAY more expensive when measured by the cost per Mbps, anyway. Very small increments of price get you enormous increases in speed.
  • Uverse requires the purchase of a new modem for $100. They sidestep listing this fee because you "may" qualify for a refund... but only if you get particular bundled packages with TV/phone and sign contracts. I treat this as an additional $8.33/mo on top of the "promo" price you pay your first year. Also, $100 for what is essentially a DSL modem is highway robbery. Nor can you use your old DSL modem with Uverse if you're upgrading from "classic" DSL. Not because it won't work, but because they won't let you.
  • AT&T has set "data caps" limiting the combined amount of data you send and receive throughout your billing month. Exceed your cap, which is like a ration, and you will be charged extra per unit, or even have your service terminated. AT&T claims there is a shortage of bandwidth, and it's rather expensive to provide. I outlined these basic reasons in my appeal to Mark yesterday. It's a total farce. One point I didn't mention was that it's widely thought that AT&T is trying to make it too expensive for folks to get their TV and other video services from 3rd party providers. AT&T has their own TV and video offerings, which will never count against your "data cap". Interesting, hmm?
  • A comprehensive study of how close Internet providers who only promise "speeds up to..." determined how close America's providers come to that mark. Under the best of conditions, AT&T only provides 94%-100% (varies by tier) of the speed they promise to provide.  
  • Prices compiled here do not include taxes, fees, and other prerequisites. There is no indication whether you will also have to pay separately for local phone service, plus telcom taxes and fees, as has been required in the past, and still is in some areas.

It seems necessary to recalculate the actual speeds you get with the actual prices you pay during your first year to provide a more realistic picture:

Service Tier Actual Speed Monthly Promo Price Monthly Regular Price
Name in Mbps* Promo Price+ Per Mbps*+ Regular Price Per Mbps*

Uverse Max 10.92 $48.28 $4.42 $51.00 $4.67
Uverse Elite 5.16 $43.28 $8.39 $46.00 $8.91
DSL Pro 2.49 $29.95 $12.03 $40.73 $16.36
DSL Express 1.26 (no promos) n/a $24.95 $19.80
DSL Basic .645 (no promos) n/a $19.95 $30.92
*Adjusted per 2012 FCC study +Including Equipment Fees
-Service reverts to regular price after 12 months, substantial taxes and other fees omitted.

All of those prices still lack "taxes & fees" so they're lowball figures. If you work out the percentage of speed degradation, you'll see they vary, as I have various exact figures for most of the tiers. I would shop for the best deal by "Price per Mbps" figures. It works like "price per ounce" at the supermarket. You'll notice that nationwide, the "Pro" tier typically supplied 2.49Mbps, so I was actually fortunate despite our complaint of only getting 2.57Mbps consistently.

It is worth discussing, that while Uverse is advertised as a "hybrid" fiber optic network, it is really just DSL. Copper wire telcom companies have been dismayed to discover that their lines are degrading faster than anticipated, and they are often unable to supply an adequate signal to homes from the "central offices" where the DSL connection classically joins the company's fiber optic infrastructure. As a stopgap, telcoms like AT&T have extended their fiber networks to cabinets throughout the city, where the same old copper wires lead onward to homes and businesses. By shortening the length of the wire, they are able to supply higher speeds again.

Uverse is touted as a fabulous new expansion of AT&T's network, keeping abreast with demand for the future. Actually, Uverse is a rather expensive band-aid, that barely keeps AT&T in the Internet business. Over the coming years, AT&T seeks to abandon wireline services completely and focus on wireless phone and data, as their profit margin is much higher for the time being. If they acquire permission to supply service only where they wish to, as Google enjoys right now, this could mean AT&T will even shut down existing wireline services wherever they can. This is the REAL reason they recently announced they were "prepared" to build "a gigabit infrastructure" in Austin, provided they receive the same deal Google got. They won't be providing gigabit fiber to homes, as this suggests, they just want the legal framework to prune their network and get their internal projects done ahead of budget.

Time Warner Cable

Now, let's examine figures from Time Warner. Time Warner plays a whole new game. They won't tell you what they'll be charging you after your promo rate expires 12 months later. They claim that they're constantly adjusting this, but if you really press them, they'll say "10-15% higher". In practice, they don't change those prices very often, and you can sometimes get them to tell you what regular prices are now. Furthermore, I've had Time Warner 3 separate times in different parts of Austin, and my figures show the bill actually increased 31%. The prices below will reflect this factor where estimation is required:

Service Tier Advertised Monthly Est. Monthly

Name Speed in Mbps Promo Price Regular Price

Ultimate 50 $74.99 $98.24

Extreme 30 $64.99 $85.14

Turbo 20 $54.99 $72.04

Standard 15 $44.99 $58.94

Basic 3 $29.99 $39.29

Lite 1 (no promos) $19.99

-Service reverts to regular price after 12 months

-These prices omit substantial taxes and other fees

Gotchas: Several.
  • Time Warner now charges an additional $4.99/mo to "rent" your cable modem. You may be required now to pay to rent an old modem you've already had "free" for any number of years. You can escape this rental fee if you purchase a modem model listed on their approved modems list. Prices for modems range from $30/used to over $150 for very nice new ones. TW does not sell modems, even your old one. Some modems cannot be used with higher speed tiers. Weirdly, they will rent you models of modem which they will not approve of for purchase. They will switch you over to your new modem via phone call, then your rental fee, prorated, will cease on the day you bring your rental modem in to their business office. Even if you're planning to switch to Google Fiber, I highly encourage you to buy a modem, as it will pay for itself in several months. It will also have resale value when you are done with it. 
  • Your coax cables may not be capable of handling the speed tier you've ordered. It's up to you to check your speed, and order a downgrade if you wish to save some money. 
  • Time Warner also has "data caps" but their policy is even weirder. They won't tell you how much it is they think is too much for you to use. But they'll notify you if they think you've crossed that threshold. Repeat offenders have their service terminated. Note that TW is also a TV provider, and their digital TV (though not really comparable to AT&T's digital TV) does not ever count against your data ration. 
  • Time Warner also underprovides their promised speeds, per the same study cited above. 
  • There are still some fees and taxes which are not available until you discover them on your first bill. Fortunately, these are minor in TW's case. 

Let's take a look at adjusted figures:

Service Tier Actual Speed Monthly Promo Price Est Monthly Regular Price
Name in Mbps* Promo Price*+ Per Mbps*+ Regular Price*+ Per Mbps*+

Ultimate (not surveyed) $79.98 $1.60 $103.23 $2.06
Extreme 30 $69.98 $2.33 $90.13 $3.00
Turbo 18.8 $59.98 $3.19 $77.03 $4.10
Standard 14.1 $49.98 $3.54 $63.93 $4.53
Basic 2.91 $34.98 $12.02 $44.28 $15.22
Lite (not surveyed) (no promos) n/a $24.98 $24.98
*Adjusted per 2012 FCC study +Including Equipment Fees
-Service reverts to regular price after 12 months, substantial taxes and other fees omitted.

When shopping by Price per Mbps, folks will now see why cable modem Internet is a much better deal than DSL, in every tier. Additionally, TW offers speed tiers above and beyond AT&T in our area. It's still not too late to fire AT&T and enjoy a year of much cheaper, much faster Internet before getting Google Fiber! Once you have a connection that isn't a slow Pain I.T.A, you'll discover whole new uses for it. This kind of speed makes the Internet an extremely cheap replacement for TV and phone services. My phone service (multiple numbers and lines) is 100% free through Google Voice, and I'll likely stick with them if they begin charging for it at some point. Other digital phone (VOIP) service can be had for as little as $8/mo. Something more well known, like Vonage, costs about the same as a land line at $30 or more (after promo period). Frankly, Vonage and it's immediate competitors charge way too much. Some customers mistake higher prices as some kind of guarantee of reliability. Experience proves that it isn't.

Google Gigabit Fiber

Google Fiber's Austin prices aren't set in stone yet, but it's safe to work with the ones charged in St. Louis. Basically, you can contract with them for monthly service and pay no installation, or you can pay for installation and have a much slower speed for free, through the next 7 years or more. For the "free" tier, I've divided up the $300* installation fee over 7 years of months. Free service does not come with TV, but you can still download movies and watch internet video of all kinds. Google Fiber is also SYMMETRICAL, unlike TW and AT&T. This means that you can upload as fast as you can download. Upload speeds that are slower than download speeds (asymmetrical), are a legacy of first generation technology. It largely remains in force today because it makes it inconvenient for customers to share files. Some fiber broadband providers offer asymmetric tiers, but it's an entirely artificial configuration for that type of technology. Google also offers TV services and free telephone service, but I'll only be considering Internet-only prices below:

Service Tier Advertised Monthly Regular Price

Name Speed in Mbps Regular Price Per Mbps

Internet + TV* 1000 $120.00 $0.07

Internet Only 1000 $70.00 $0.07

Free Internet** 5 $3.57 $0.71

-These prices might omit taxes and other fees

* $5/mo for extra tuners ** Pay $300 or $25/mo through first year.

*The installation fee has been widely listed as either $300 or $400. Google currently states $300.

Gotchas: several.
  • Standard Wifi is not yet gigabit-fast, so you'll need to cable your PC to the provided router to get the best speeds. 
  • Your PC and switching gear will need gigabit Ethernet jacks. Your PC may not actually be capable of keeping up with incoming data at that speed. But the PC you buy in a few years absolutely will. Until then, your speeds will still be several multiples of the highest speeds DSL or cable modem can summon. 
  • There's insufficient data to determine whether Google Fiber manages to provide the speeds it advertises. In any case, Verizon FIOS consistently provided MORE than 100% of the speed they promised, though this was at a lower speed level. 
  • GF Prices listed above appear to be total prices, and not "base prices" before taxes and fees, but again, this isn't certain. 
Compared to our old service, by proportion, AT&T would provide 1Gbps for $16,360.00/mo. Google Fiber would provide 3Mbps for under twenty-five cents per month.

Some reports are coming out that suggest it only costs $.50-$1 to supply the bandwidth for one customer for one month, though it isn't clear at what average speed (this refers to wholesale pricing in the NYC area):

If you like charts, prepare to have your eyes pop out. The blue bars indicate full regular price in dollars, and the orange bars indicate actual speeds, in Mbps.

And, here's what it looks like with Google Fiber Gigabit tier. It's a massacre!

*UPDATE: Some typos, math errors and formatting corrected on Monday, June 11 2013.

Friday, April 12, 2013

 : Google Fiber’s Next Stop: Austin, Texas

 : Google Fiber’s Next Stop: Austin, Texas: We know that your time is valuable and so we’ve always focused on speed — from search to Gmail, Chrome to Android. Two years ago, we announc...

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Welcome Neighbors! Time to share your ideas!

I want to start things out by being as inclusive as possible. If anyone has some inspiration, it would sure be appreciated. I'm listing out some of my ideas, but I'm not assuming that I will be a leader or spokesperson as we move forward. I can do that until someone else steps forward, if it is the desire of the group.

I want to emphasize that everything below is just possibilities. I know we each have a different amount of time and energy to pour into something like this, and have a different degree of interest in it. I would be completely content if others took this project away from me and made it their own, but I would also be pleased to continue doing the heavy lifting over the long run. If you have some ideas, please email me or call me and make them known! We can all exchange ideas through a mailing-list format, or even meet in person and make a party out of it.

First of all, let's establish that we exist. If any of us speaks about a group of neighbors in Dawson who want Google Fiber, we don't want to feel like we're sort of making things up or exaggerating. So here we are. And we should all feel independently welcome to talk about the group to people or media. The terms "grass-roots", "group" or "movement" seems fine and honest at this stage. If, in the future, we need to establish formal roles, we can move on to "organization".

I propose we call ourselves the "Dawson Fiberhood" after Google's term for neighborhoods which are candidates for fiber. If this movement goes really well, we could be nucleating a coalition of south side fiberhoods.

It would be highly advantageous to gain recognition from other neighborhood associations and other established groups, and with their approval, describe our fledgeling movement as part of a coalition. There's nothing wrong with borrowing a bit of their good reputation. We're a social group of real people, seeking to improve our quality of life, not a financial venture. At a later stage we might venture into the PAC realm, as it is indeed politics which props up the established industry which Google seeks to free us from. But we need never do that if we don't have the time or energy.

In the pursuit of establishing a web presence, it only seemed natural to choose Blogger, Google+, Gmail and Google Voice. There may be a separate, traditional web site established in the future. Other options include email addresses for each member under the group's "web name" to keep our personal ones from becoming public. This makes it easier for someone like me to filter out spam and viruses. I'm establishing a Google Voice phone number, and if the need or desire arises, I can set up various members as extensions like any small business. Folks will call the main number, dial your extension, and the call will be forwarded to your home phone.

Using this blog, I want to feature a parade of Dawson and South Austin people, businesses, musicians, artists and other organizations, so that they can testify about how Google Fiber will benefit them. It may interest you to know that Dawson Elementary and other schools, libraries and public buildings will get GF for free. GF will not be offered to businesses at first, but they will be able to provide a better experience for their customers who have faster connections. Artists and musicians can transmit their music and images of their work much easier. It's possible to provide a sort of "radio station", with video even, to send live sound and images of neighborhood meetings, live performances or art being constructed, or featured tunes by local musicians. In all honesty, these things are possible now, but gigabit Internet service sweeps away most of the problems which slower connections suffer from.

So in closing, make sure you've visited Google's web page and given them your email address and zip code. If you have more than one email address, fill it out multiple times. Get your family members, neighbors and friends to do this too. Check that box too, to let Google know you're extra serious.

As a movement, I see our first goal being to grab some media attention, then to gain enough momentum that we have a core group of active members. One of their roles could be to keep an eye out for Google Fiber news, and other opportunities, and react with an enthusiastic shout out for our movement. Contact with the Press and even Google staff could be in our future.

Things might seem to slow down for a while after that, until Google starts accepting registration deposits. That will start at the beginning of 2014 -or earlier!-. We'll need to twang on all of our strings again to remind people that it's time to ante up. If our movement is a lone voice in the wild, so be it. But it would be wonderful if we inspire some of our neighboring 'hoods to launch similar promotions.

If anyone would like to know more about me, please visit my website at or reply to this email, or feel free to call me any time. My number is on my website. If our contact info changes in the future, i'll edit this post to reflect it.

Please do not hesitate to comment below. Share your thoughts, constructive criticism, and any other contributions you wish to make. Your comments can be anonymous. Feel free to call or email me any time, too. There's no time like the present to let our presence be known!

Chad Vanderlinden