Sunday, May 13, 2012

Knology raises its rates, and its upload speeds

Recently Knology (soon to become Wow!) made some minor changes to its broadband internet offerings. The most obvious change is that the prices of ever tier of services went up by $3.00, but in return for the price increases, every tier now enjoys much faster upload speeds. These improved speeds bring Knology in line with common DOCSIS3 cable internet speeds from other providers, and represent the results of some major behind-the-scenes infrastructure upgrades over the past 6 months (that's part of the reason there have been so many outages on Knology as of late).

Knology's Sunflower-era web page hasn't been updated with the new plan information, but in return for that extra three bucks a month, here's what you'll receive:

Bronze: Knology's low-end service retains its DSL-like 3 megabit download speed, but gets a nice boost in upload speed to 1 megabit (up for 256 kilobits). The bandwidth cap for the Bronze service gets a slight bump for 3 gigs a month to 5 GB, which is still ridiculously low. At $22.95 a month (assuming you already have cable TV), Bronze is still a very poor deal, as even a single system update or movie download would blow through the puny bandwidth cap and have you paying overage charges.

Silver: Knology's mid-range service gets a solid speed boost, going from 10 to 18 megabits in download speed and 1 to 2 megabits in upload. The bandwidth cap remains 50 GB, for a monthly price of $37.95 (if you have cable). The bandwidth cap is still too stingy, but the speeds are very solid for a mid-range option. For most people, Silver is the definite sweet spot and probably the best value as long as you stay under the cap.

Gold: Knology's premium service for serious internet users retains its old 50 megabit download speeds, but gets a major upgrade from 1 to 5 megabits for upload, finally making Knology useful for common tasks like online backups and video uploading. The 5 megabit speeds might even be understating things, as anecdotally, some Knology Gold users have seen speeds in the 6 or 7 megabit range at least in shorts bursts uploading. At $62.95 (with cable), Gold is pricey, and sadly, Knology has not upped the barely adequate 250 GB monthly bandwidth cap. For a premium service, it would be nice if Knology offered the 500 GB caps that many other providers offer for their highest-end service.

Palladium: Knology's cap-less Palladium server, now $47.95 a month (with cable), still offers download speeds of between 2 and 25 megabits, and upload speeds up to 1 megabit, unchanged from before (other then the higher price). Palladium may be a good value for those who move a lot of data but do not care about speed - perhaps folks with nailed-up VPN connections, or large continuous online backups.

The improved upload speeds are a good value for only $3.00 more a month, and it is nice to see Knology offering speeds that are at least mainstream, but here's hoping WoW continues to improve things - DOCSIS3 is capable of much faster speeds, and many providers off 10 megabit upload and much higher caps. Still, Knology has definitely thrown a gauntlet towards U-Verse, who offers 24/3 on their fastest data tier at roughly the same price (albeit without currently enforcing any bandwidth caps).

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A year come and gone

The Broadband Observer has been deep deep undercover for the past 400 or so days. The good news (well, really, bad news) is that not much has changed in Lawrence in the past year or so in the world of broadband. What are some of the highlights? As Google continues the rapid build-out of a true fiber network just 30 miles to our East, Lawrence residents still limp along with the same sloth-like Knology upload speeds that the old Sunflower Broadband was selling over 10 years ago! Meanwhile, there's always U-Verse, but if you can't get U-Verse in Lawrence, you probably will never get it, because as far as I can tell, they are done with their build-out in our area. At least in some slight good news, the promised AT&T bandwidth caps are not being enforced, at least for U-Verse customers.

Considering cord-cutting? Well, paying $10 a GB for Verizon's zippy LTE network (which blows U-Verse and Knology out of the water speed-wise) will bankrupt you quickly, but don't worry, Lawrencians, because while Verizon is hurriedly activating this wicked-fast 4G service in bustling metropolises through our state such as Great Bend and Hayes, Lawrence is still poking along in the slow lane with ancient 3G service without any sign of LTE on the horizon.

But who needs the Internet when there's something good to watch on TV? The past year has seen Knology complete what Sunflower started by encrypting all of the non-over-the-air cable channels, meaning that you need a set-top-box (or a CableCard device like a TiVo) to watch even basic cable networks like CNN and ESPN on a digital TV. Thus the long, 30+ year era of being able to watch basic cable by just plugging a coax into a television set ends with a whimper.

Finally, the big news of the past year is that after making a quick meal of Sunflower Broadband (including several dozen local jobs swallowed whole as the appetizer), Knology has gone ahead and been bought out itself by WideOpenWest (from hereon to be known as 'WOW' not to be confused with a certain addictive video game). What does this mean? A safe bet is increased prices, decreased service, and possibly the loss of those kicking-it-old-school email addresses. There is hope for those of us eagerly looking East towards 1 gigabit speeds in KC...WOW offers 5 megabit upload speeds and apparently no bandwidth caps, which will, if provided in Lawrence, move broadband in our town into the 2000s right as the rest of the country hits the mid 2010s.