Consumers don’t want (& won’t pay for) gigabit internet says Time Warner Cable

Mar 1, 2013
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Super-fast internet connections like Google Fiber have only geek, not consumer, appeal, Time Warner Cable's CFO has insisted, dismissing suggestions that the ISP will need to speed up its consumer service any time soon. Speaking at the Morgan Stanley Technology Conference this week, chief financial officer Irene Esteves said that while the company has the capability to deliver high internet speeds, The Verge reports, right now customers don't actually want them.

In fact, Esteves pointed out, Time Warner Cable is already selling high-speed service, it's just that the only people who will pay for it are businesses. "We're already delivering 1 gigabit, 10 gigabit-per-second to our business customers," she said, "so we certainly have the capability of doing it."

For consumers, though, the demand has been quite different, the CFO argues. "A very small fraction of our customer base" pick Time Warner Cable's faster home options, which top out at the "Ultimate" package with up to 50Mbps downloads and up to 5Mbps uploads. The majority of its packages are under 20Mbps, however, with uploads of at most 5Mbps.

"We're in the business of delivering what consumers want, and to stay a little ahead of what we think they will want" Esteves says, taking a contrary stance to Google's "we will need fiber" attitude. However, that's not to say Time Warner Cable wouldn't be happy if Google encouraged people to need speedier service, with the CFO pointing out that should the search giant discover a "magic pill" to drive faster broadband adoption, the ISP would move to cater to that demand.

Unsurprisingly, the exec's comments have divided opinion, with most in the tech world arguing that it's the limitations of home network connections - often, when it comes to content creation, the limit of upload rates which are usually far slower than download speeds - that has kept services from proliferating, rather than the other way around.

For the ISP, however, which can't simply offer a "halo" service in one area like Google Fiber, it's a question of investment versus return, and if subscribers won't pay the rates, they won't be pushing the envelope in speeds any time soon. Time Warner - as well as others - has already demanded similar indulgences from Kansas City, the first location to have Google Fiber, for its own competing trial service, but with estimates pegging the cost of a full US fiber roll-out at $140bn it's unlikely to spread considerably.


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