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Road Runner picks up speed

Time Warner Cable's broadband ISP will turn up its download speed dial by 67 percent for its basic subscribers in January.

Time Warner Cable will raise download speeds on its Road Runner broadband service next month by 67 percent, becoming the latest cable network to further open bandwidth for its customers.

Road Runner said Tuesday that it will boost the download speed for its basic subscribers, who pay $45 a month, from 3mbps to 5mbps. Its premium customers, who pay $84.95 a month, will get a boost from 6mbps to 8mbps.

The move comes more than a year after Road Runner's previous speed bump from 2mbps to 3mbps for its basic subscribers.

Time Warner Cable is the latest cable broadband provider to raise its speed as a competitive weapon against the Baby Bell phone companies that offer DSL. For nearly two years, the Bells have slashed subscription prices to as low as $26 a month for their DSL services in an attempt to spark a price war. Cable companies have not budged on their typical $45 a month price, but they have responded by raising download speeds.

In August, Cox Communications raised its basic download speed from 3mbps to 4mbps and boosted its premium tier to 5mbps.

The price war has helped the nation's largest DSL providers--such as Verizon Communications, SBC Communications, Qwest Communications International and BellSouth--add millions of new subscribers every year. But cable providers continue to dominate the market with 61 percent market share despite the Bells' aggressive price cuts and promotions, according to market researcher Leichtman Research Group.

Both sides are battling over customers eager to drop their slower dial-up ISPs for speedier broadband. The companies are scrambling to add new broadband customers and sell them other services such as video programming and voice calling.