Ah, Time Warner Cable—friendly supplier of your choice of cable TV and broadband internet. Or, as residents in Wilson, North Carolina are finding out, not friendly at all: TWC is trying to close their community-based, cheap, and efficient cable/ISP service. Why? Because it can't compete.
A few thousand residents in Wilson were fed up with paying a high price for low-speed broadband and limited cable service, so they founded a community-owned ISP based on optical-fiber networks running to the front door called Greenlight. Compared with the limited channels, slow data rates and expensive fees charged by the cable company, Greenlight is a fantastic bargain. The basic package includes 81 channels, 10 mbps down and upload speeds, and unlimited long distance phone calls to the U.S and Canada for $99. A similar package from Time Warner Cable offers fewer channels, slower upload speeds and costs 40% more—and that's the "introductory offer" price. Greenlight even has a top-end broadband service that rips along at an obscene 100mbps, ten times faster than TWC's best.
So what is TWC doing about this—improving its service, dropping prices and offering great incentives to tempt customers back into the fold? Nope, the company is lobbying the North Carolina senate to outlaw community ISPs on the grounds that it can't compete.
Yes, you read that correctly. And no, your assumptions about what "free and fair competition" mean aren't all wrong. It's difficult to see this as anything other than TWC's sour grape attempt to cover up its own inefficiencies. What the cable company is doing is apparently trying to enforce lower-spec, more expensive services on Wilson's residents just because it wants to, and because it's got the financial heft to press the legal case.
Along with news that the company seems to be withdrawing its super-fast next-gen broadband trials (DOCSIS 3.0) from cities that won't accept its tiered billing plan, this is another indication that it may finally be time to rid yourself of cable company ties. It's a technologically rich world, and there are other solutions available for both broadband and TV—as Wilson's residents have shown. There's Hulu, Boxee, TV-over ISP, ADSL, movie downloads from Amazon and Apple, Netflix, fixed wireless ISPs, and an armload of other options. The tech is out there—assuming that the cable companies will let you get your hands on it.
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