Before Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) rolled out its new, lightning-fast Internet service in Shawnee, Kan.; Provo, Utah; and Austin, Texas, Fiber seemed little more than one of the search giant’s playthings — like self-driving cars or home delivery services.
Last month’s article, written shortly after Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) announced it was heading to Austin — before Provo and Shawnee were thrown into the mix — discussed the “what ifs” of Fiber and its impact on the future of cable. Today, there are no more “what ifs.” Fiber’s real, it’s going to generate revenue for Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG), and it will change the way cable operates, in spite of what Time Warner Cable Inc (NYSE:TWC)‘s CEO Glenn Britt says.
Did he really say that?
It was only a week ago Britt was quoted as saying of Fiber: “they have a glow about them … [but are] no different than other overbuilders that have failed to overtake cable operators.” Really? Then why did Britt’s Time Warner Cable Inc (NYSE:TWC), shortly after Fiber landed in the Kansas City area, increase its Internet connectivity speeds for customers and drop the monthly fee from $45 to just $30 a month?
Also curious, particularly for a cable provider that called Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) Fiber nothing more than “imagery painting” after it was announced Fiber was coming to Austin, was Time Warner Cable’s decision to offer its Austin area customers free Wi-Fi access. The free Wi-Fi will require installation of hundreds of hotspots in Austin, but Britt and Time Warner Cable have apparently become all about customer service.
A dose of reality
Along with airlines, the cable industry consistently ranks among the worst for customer service, year in, year out. The animosity consumers feel toward the cable industry is across the board — Time Warner Cable Inc (NYSE:TWC) finds itself on most of these lists, along with competitors including Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA) and Charter Communications, Inc. (NASDAQ:CHTR). Both Comcast and Charter have the distinction of owning even lower customer service ratings than Time Warner Cable Inc (NYSE:TWC), and that’s saying something.
As Time Warner Cable made evident in Austin recently, upping Internet connectivity speeds is a viable alternative, as are lower prices, so what’s preventing Charter Communications, Inc. (NASDAQ:CHTR), Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA), and Time Warner Cable Inc (NYSE:TWC) from enhancing their respective services? No need, at least for now. All three of the cable big boys enjoyed year-over-year growth in their Internet businesses in 2012. Charter Communications, Inc. (NASDAQ:CHTR) saw an 8% jump in Internet customers in 2012, and both Time Warner Cable Inc (NYSE:TWC) and Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA) increased Internet revenues in 2012 compared with the prior year, by 13.7% and 9.2%, respectively.