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.

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