Google Fiber prompts Time Warner to offer free Austin Wi-Fi

Time Warner Cable steps up its Austin Wi-Fi hot spot plan after Google announced it would be bringing its superfast Internet service to the Texas capital.

Time Warner Cable

Though Time Warner Cable's free Wi-Fi hot spots are nothing new, there is something perhaps more than coincidental about the timing of their launch in Austin, Texas.

Did someone say Google Fiber?

Well, actually, Time Warner itself did. In its announcement Thursday that it's bringing free Wi-Fi hot spots to its Austin customers, the company said it was Google launching its superfast Internet and TV service in the Texas capital that gave Time Warner momentum.

"We've been rolling out our free Wi-Fi network across our footprint for some time now, as part of our larger strategy to offer significantly more value to our Internet subscribers. Austin was in the game plan for 2013," Time Warner Cable's digital communications director, Jeff Simmermon, wrote in a blog post Thursday. "But Google's recent announcement encouraged us to deploy our network more aggressively now. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, we're ready to compete."

Time Warner's new Austin hot-spot network will be free to all customers with a Standard Internet plan or above; it will also be available to the company's Business Class subscribers. Those people who aren't customers can pay $2.95 per hour. While the service isn't yet citywide, it is available in the most trafficked areas -- and the company plans to build it out across Austin throughout 2013.

Despite the upped competition from Google in Austin, Time Warner -- along with other Internet providers like Comcast and Cable Vision -- has already been deploying Wi-Fi hot spots all over the country. Regardless of what Google does, it's still a part of its overall strategy. Currently Time Warner has more than 100,000 hot spots in the U.S., which are in cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Kansas City, San Francisco, and more.

It's unclear if the Wi-Fi hot spots will actually attract customers away from Google Fiber. It seems that Time Warner might also need to focus on offering faster and better broadband for its customers -- all while keeping it in a comfortable price range that competes with the Google product, which will most likely cost about $70 per month.

Besides Time Warner, Google's presence in Austin has elicited response from other competitors. After the Web giant announced earlier this month that it was taking Google Fiber to Austin, AT&T also revealed its plans to build a fast fiber-optic infrastructure for comparable high-speed access in the Texas city.

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