Time Warner Cable chief technology officer Irene Esteves says you don’t really want the gigabit speeds offered by Google Fiber and other high speed providers.
On Wednesday, at a conference in San Francisco, Esteves downplayed the importance of offering a service to compete with Google, as reported by The Verge. “We’re in the business of delivering what consumers want, and to stay a little ahead of what we think they will want…. We just don’t see the need of delivering that to consumers,” she said, referring to gigabit-speed internet connections.
Esteves thinks only business customers will need that kind of bandwidth, and she noted that Time Warner already offers gigabit connections for businesses in some markets.
Google rolled out its gigabit speed fiber optic service in Kansas City earlier this year. But big telcos like Verizon and Time Warner have been slow to match it. In fact, Verizon has frozen expansion of its much slower — and more expensive — fiber optic service, known as FiOS.
Experts believe that this reluctance has less to do with a lack of customer demand and more to do with protecting high margin broadband businesses. Companies like Time Warner Cable make around a 97 percent profit on existing services, Bernstein Research analyst Craig Moffet told the MIT Technology Review this month. But Verizon is more interested in wireless broadband, on which it can make an “absolute killing,” by charging per gigabyte for usage, broadband industry watcher and DSL Reports editor Karl Bode told Wired earlier this year.
Esteves may be right that the consumer applications for that much bandwidth don’t exist yet, but it’s something of a chicken and egg problem. Startups in Kansas City are already exploring the consumer applications of gigabit connections, such as gaming and streaming media. CyberJammer, for example, is developing a system for musicians to do live collaborations with high quality audio software.
Home health care is another potential market for high bandwidth connections at home. Mark Ansboury, president and co-founder of upstart broadband provider Gigabit Squared told Wired his company is working with a senior care service that provides a two-way high definition video conference for recently de-hospitalized patients to consult with their doctors without leaving home.
Esteves did say that if demand and applications pick up, the company would be interested in offering faster connections to communities, The Verge reported. But by then, it may be too late for the incumbents.
Communities across the country are sick of waiting for the big telcos or Google to bring them faster speeds and are taking matters into their own hands. Lafeyette, Louisiana and Chattanooga, Tennessee are the most famous examples. Both have built gigabit speed municipal networks that provide access. Meanwhile, cities like Seattle and Chicago are contracting with Gigabit Squared to turn unused fiber optic infrastructure into consumer internet connections.