Interesting stuff happening lately about internet service in this area:

  1. My mom saw a Verizon truck in the county fair parade today (I didn’t go; saw no need and was tired). The truck has “High Speed Internet coming soon!” or similar painted on te side. This is DSL, not FiOS (Verizon always refers to their fiber offering by its trademarked name). However from what I hear Verizon’s DSL release is just a ploy to drive up the sale cost of their system here; Fredericksburg isn’t a large metropolitan area, and there are too mayn bridged taps and other phone system anomaies here for DSL to reach beyond a small part of town. At least that’s what the scuttlebutt says. My prediction: Verizon offers some flavor of DSL to folks who can currently get Windstream DSL, then sells the system to whoever will take it, using the “we have DSL in our central office” argument to jack the price up slightly above what the system is worth.
  2. Bee Creek Communications, the local our-hands-are-tied-and-if-anyone-competes-with-us-we-lose wireless ISP, was in the parade today as well. They also have a third-of-a-page ad in the paper advertising free installation to new customers until September 15th. A few years ago an installation with similar equipment would have run you around $220. The problem here is that their network is already over capacity in some areas, they’re spread too thinly in terms of manpower and their speeds are the stuff of yesteryear, barely competitive with satellite internet (though their monthly transfer caps are higher). The service also requires a two-year contract with a $125 early termination fee. If you want a one-year agreement service will run you another $10 per month. In short, don’t buy.
  3. Clearwire is launching WiMAX service in San Antonio and Austin on September 1st. Maybe they’ll bring their service here. Would put Bee Creek right out of business, since Clear has an uncapped-download, one-megabit-upload (or is that uncapped too?) tier for a mere $45 per month. They even have cheaper tiers to compete with your garden-variety DSL options. They even have business tiers that will fill the gap between Bee Creek’s woefully slow packages and Time Warner Cable’s woefully expensive ones. In a nutshell, something for everyone as long as you’re within range of one of their towers. I’ll be keeping close track of what happens here. For what it’s worth, I told Bee Creek about Clear’s possible imminent launch nearby, and I wouldn’t be surprised if their larger-than-usual print ad was a direct result of this.
  4. Hill Country Telephone Cooperative has run fiber around the city of Fredericksburg and plans to get CLEC (competitive local exchange carrier) operations started before the end of the year, or something close to that anyway. They may just focus on high-end business operations (like they’re doing in nearby Kerrville, where they recently connected the city’s independent school district) however they’re a residential provider in their home area, so they know how to deal with “normal” customers. Plus, they have a lot of options for deploying service; in addition to their new fiber-optic network they have an AWS (1700 MHz cellular) license for this area, a 3.65 GHz “light license” which they’re using for WiMAX service in the nearby town of Mason, and maybe (if the price is right) Verizon’s old copper network, though I’m not sure why they’d want it. I heard HCTC offered $50 million for the network a few years back, and Verizon wanted $80 million fot it. Knowing that the network wasn’t worth that much, HCTC walked.

In short, it will be interesting to see what happens around here in the relatively near future with regard to internet service. Right now Time Warner Cable is the only provider who will give you more than a 2 Mbps connection (okay, HughesNet will give you 5 Mbps but they don’t count due to obscenely low caps and ridiculously high monthly fees). They’re also the only provider around here with customer-available fiber; Verizon apparently doesn’t have any. Sounds like that may change soon though. I’ll tell all I know (or am allowed to tell, whichever is less) as I find out more.