Internet service Google Fiber pulls service from Louisville because of challenges in the market that disrupted customer service.
Brittney Jackson, Louisville Courier Journal
A few weeks after Google Fiber announced it was leaving Louisville, AT&T began sending representatives to coffee shops to meet with Google customers in the Highlands.
AT&T and Spectrum also beefed up advertising on local TV and in full-page ads with the Courier Journal, bidding to lock down tech-savvy customers who need service before Google Fiber hits the “off” switch April 15.
Consumer advocates say they aren’t surprised by Google’s exit, but their sympathies lie with residents and small business owners who soon will have fewer choices, and likely will pay more once the deals to lure new customers expire in a year or two.
“You guys in Louisville really got the short end,” said Phillip Dampier, president and founder of Stop the Cap, a consumer group fighting data caps and for better broadband headquartered in Rochester, New York.
Read more: Google Fiber is leaving Louisville, so what should customers do?
Google Fiber, a division of the California tech giant, spent more than a year installing fiber optic cable in targeted parts of the Highlands, Newburg and Portland starting in fall 2017.
But after months of delays using ultra-shallow trenching to install the cable — and complaints from customers about torn up pavement and yards — the company announced abruptly last month it would cut bait and shut off access to customers in mid-April.
It acknowledged that the installation wasn’t meeting its standards, and reinstalling the lines would be cost prohibitive.
Although Louisville officials continue to negotiate with Google Fiber on repairing streets and to meet informally with other companies that might step in, the situation has left customers with fewer choices — most notably AT&T and Spectrum.
Whether you were once were a Google Fiber customer or not, where you live can makes a big difference in the kind of offers you receive from Spectrum.
It’s a trend Stop the Cap leaders have noticed all over the country where Spectrum parent Charter Communications does business.
The company knows when customers search for rates on spectrum.com and which competitors serve their address, so prices are set accordingly.
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See also: After Google Fiber breakup, Louisville woos Indiana internet company
People who are in an area now served by Google Fiber, and have the choice to switch to AT&T or Spectrum, typically get the best rate, Dampier said.
“It almost seems like a bit of black magic for the pricing you get,” said Patrick Carrico, a tech worker who lives in the Belknap neighborhood near Taylorsville Road and Trevilian Way.
He used Google Fiber until recently and went looking for an alternative provider after learning his service would end. Spectrum offered $29.99 for 400 megabytes per second (Mbsp) per month for three years.
To see whether rates really vary by location, the Courier Journal checked the company’s website and plugged in two separate addresses to compare against Carrico’s internet-only rate. The prices at both locations were higher, with lower speeds and less time on the offer.
On Bayly Avenue, off Frankfort Avenue, for instance, Spectrum’s price on the website was $44.99 a month for one year and speeds starting at 60 Mbps.
On Marshall Avenue near the Shelbyville Road malls, the company offers the service for $64.99 a month for two years, with 200 Mbps. Neither area was served by Google Fiber, so the neighborhoods primarily are carved up by AT&T and Spectrum.
Spectrum doesn’t set rates based on one area or the other, or based on what’s available to customers in specific locations, company spokesman Michael Pedelty said.
“We don’t make decisions based on that,” he said.
Read this: DirecTV, AT&T U-verse pull plug on Louisville stations WDRB and WBKI
Some of the variation in service speeds may trace to the fact that Spectrum/Charter purchased Time Warner Cable three years ago. It may still have some services listed from the TWC days in Louisville, Pedelty said, adding that Spectrum offers only 200 Mbps in Louisville, not the 60 speed.
Dampier, of the consumer group, has a different take.
“Spectrum does not want to give everyone the best possible deal if they don’t have to,” he said in an email. “That street address checker allows them to identify the exact competitors already available to each customer and offer a tailored promo that is competitive.
“It can be frustrating because it is unquestionable proof that competition is everything. If you have competition, you pay less. If not you pay more.”
In checking AT&T offers at the same addresses, internet-only consistently was listed at $50 per month for a year at 100 Mbps. AT&T sent a statement saying that “we … want to ensure customers impacted by Google Fiber leaving the Louisville market know they have a great option available to them.”
AT&T’s high-speed network is available to 175,000 homes and businesses in the area.
Dampier said customers should beware of one-year offers because the companies routinely jack up the price when the initial offer is up.
Read this: Toyota to invest $238M, add Lexus and RAV4 hybrids at Kentucky plant
For Carrico, Google Fiber’s decision to pull the plug on Louisville raised questions about the company’s original intention to become an internet service provider. It felt like Google Fiber made a play to force other providers to beef up their infrastructure in this market and allow more people to use Google (internet products), he said.
“AT&T and the others want to sell phone packages and more channels. That was the main reason I was so excited that Google Fiber was coming to Louisville,” Carrico said.
“As long as these companies fight against competition … we’re putting money in their pockets,” he said. And “two choices (here) is really not a choice at all.”
Grace Schneider: 502-582-4082; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @gesinfk. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/graces.
How much does Louisville pay for fiber internet?
$50 per month for 100 Mbps service
$70 per month for 1 Gbps service
*Service ends for customers April 15
$50 per month for 100 Mbps service* †
$50 per month for 300 Mbps service* †
$70 per month for 1 Gbps service*
You can see which AT&T services are offered at your home by clicking here.
*Promotional prices for the first year of service. Does not include taxes and fees.
† Limited internet. Has a 1TB data cap.
$69.95 per month for 100 Mbps service
$89.95 per month for 1 Gbps service
You can see which IGlou services are offered at your home by clicking here.
Spectrum (not a Fiber service)
$29.99 – $64.99 for 200 – 400 Mbps service *
$89.99 – $104.99 for 1 Gbps service *
You can see which Spectrum services are offered at your home by clicking here.
* Price varies based on location
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