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"Wideband" Internet on way to Durham from Time Warner -- just make sure your wallet's set to "wideband," too

We may all be getting ready to "Marry Durham" come March, but Google hasn't even shown a willingness to return our phone calls after that initial flirtation they made with municipalities nationwide for their fiber-optic program. (Or, for that matter, anyone's calls -- there's no sign that the Big G has picked any community for a residential gigabit network.)

Instead, we've been stuck in a relationship with Time Warner Cable that's been pretty monogamous, though some Durhamites have tried to stray with mixed success.

Clear Wireless' 4G network makes passes at folks' mailboxes with come-ons for home and mobile broadband, but as we saw in last year's BCR tests (and in discussions on listservs), the network seemed to, er, have trouble performing. Meanwhile, the old DSL service from Verizon is now sold by Frontier, but many neighborhoods are limited by the locations of central offices and have challenges getting the network to run as fast as was promised back during the wooing.

And that's to say nothing of AT&T's U-Verse service, which has shown no interest in expanding beyond the company's old BellSouth footprint -- something that doesn't include the Bull City.

Now comes news, though, that our longstanding partner, Time Warner, is investing in so-called wideband service in Durham and the region this spring.

Its technical name is DOCSIS 3.0. It comes at speeds of up to 50 megabits down, 5 megabits up, enough to handle much more in the way of bits and bytes than today's network, which can at times hit just a fifth of those speeds.

But it's not likely to come cheap.

In Charlotte, word is that the high-end speeds go for -- wait for it -- $100 per month.

No, that doesn't come with ESPN or Food Network. That's just plain Internet, albeit fast Internet.

Or maybe you've been watching Time Warner and have seen all those odd commercials for the company's "Signature Service," featuring stylishly dressed middle-aged folks talking about how wonderful their whole-house DVR service and fast Internet is.

They don't name a price, a bad sign, but word is those packages can run up to nearly $200 a month.

Of course, it could be that TWC brings lower pricing here to Durham.

In fact, it'll be really interesting to compare pricing in the Bull City to Wilson, which is getting wideband service in the coming months along with the Triangle.

Why Wilson? Well, we'd assume that's because Wilson's civic leaders ended up implementing a fiber-optic network providing even faster speeds directly to homes, in direct competition with the cable company.

Still, it'll be nice to have faster broadband here in Durham -- even if we won't get near gigabit speeds, or competitive pricing, as long as they're the only real high-speed game in town.



I was talking with friends about Wilson's municipal Internet service last weekend. We were wondering what it would take to get Durham to roll out the same thing. The investment would be high, but I feel like it would pay off in the long run.

Ross Grady

Well, considering I pay $65/month for the current RoadRunner Turbo, which hovers somewhere around 8MBit downstream (at non-peak hours, that is), I'd call 50MBit for $100 a pretty major upgrade.

The sad thing, of course, is that I would actually consider paying more, NOT because I need more than 8-10MBit/sec, but because currently my Roku reports actual network speeds of 1.5 - 3MBit during prime Netflix-streaming hours & thus it won't always give me the highest-quality HD stream.

So in other words, TimeWarner Turbo FAIL yet I'd apparently still be willing to pay them more if they'd give me the service that I'm supposedly already paying for now. Sigh.

Seth Vidal

I'm paying nearly $70 now at 10-12mbit down / and .5 up.

If I can go to 50down/5up for $30 more I'd take it as a win.

Matt Drew

@Bart: A cheaper and faster way would be to repeal most of NCGS Chapter 66, Article 42, as well as several other regulations. These are the tools that large companies like Time Warner and AT&T use to prevent smaller competition from ever establishing a foothold.


I don't care what upgrades they make, I'll invest in carrier pigeons before I'll give Time Warner another cent. The price for basic cable and internet is approaching my monthly car payment, and their customer service is the worst on the planet. If that's not a monopoly, I don't know what is.

Susan Scott

Frontier Communications in Durham has high speed internet service(s) with pricing protection. The company used to be Verizon Phone (not the wireless co.)and was purchased last year by Frontier Communications. They also have stepped up their customer service to treat customers well. They aren't perfect but they put a lot of effort into doing all that they can to please customers. Lots of people have been pleased with their services - phone, internet and video - Triple Plays at lower prices.

Raymond G.

@Susan Scott-

Thanks for the nice info on Frontier, I enjoy the service. You might mention in future posts the "they" is you as I know lots of folks in town would love to know you are on the job and communicating directly with customers through multiple channels. Do correct me if I'm wrong, I am assuming you are the Susan Scott who is General Manager of Frontier in Durham? If not, apologies, If so, a question.
Does Frontier have any plans to upgrade their system to offer a product similar to the Verizon Fios service - A high quality Triple Play?

Robert E.

Well Time Warner sucks, no matter where you live. The services that they provide have NEVER been reliable. I constantly have to reboot my cable box due to freeze up and the internet well let's just say it's not up to par either. Though I'm not living in Durham now, I've had their services in several other areas and I continue to experience the same issues over and over again. Their customer service just tells you the same thing verbatim, in fact half of the time when I even bother to call them I can repeat word for word what they're going to say. The send out a technician who it seems they don't give the history of the phone calls so when they arrive they repeat the same steps as the last technician. To sum it up, Time Warner needs to get it together with the services they provide. I laugh at the commercials they advertise on television..."You first..then the technology". Well, you would think the technology would be first and dependable prior to getting "you". But it seems they just want the money and never improve the services they provide. Just my humble opinion.


How can an area like this one, that wants to be a technological center, have only one real option for internet? And a crappy one at best.

The US is the 18th country (ONE EIGHT!!!)with highest average Internet speeds. The real averages for the US are 2.34Mbps and 0.65Mbps, something any Time Warner client can tell you because the speeds they announce are just the highs that you can get at sometimes of the day.



I agree about the Durham County rolling out its own internet service. To be honest I'm surprised it hasn't considering RTP. The big issue I've read but cannot substantiate is finding internet access provider that is willing to sell us access. Because it can cut into their business they usually aren't willing to sell. I'm still researching and at some point hopefully come up with a plan to at least get a small experiment going in Durham.

Todd P

I had Verizon/Frontier DSL for years but dropped them a few months ago becuase the connection speed was awful - always less than 500 kbps, and often a good bit less.

I was reluctant to make the switch to TWC, but have been very pleased with their connection speed - consistently 6000-7000 kbps. As a plus, their price was competitive with Frontier. I felt foolish for not switching sooner.

Steve Graff

I had problems with TWC and drop-kicked them after a "technician" just pointed the finger of blame for my connection woes on my third-party wireless router and my Vonage box. He wouldn't even listen to me explain that I experienced the same problems when connecting the cable modem directly to a computer.

Tried Clearwire (now Clear) and found that the speeds were all over the place, horrible lag, and forget about using it in inclement weather (signal strength dropped in half).

Switched to Verizon's top DSL plan (7Mbps/768Kbps), had endless problems with the Actiontec POS (and no, I don't mean Point Of Sale) router they provided. Was finally able to figure out how to configure a D-Link DSL router, connected that to my D-Link wireless router and it's been very solid. Streaming Netflix using a Wii or Roku also works great!

I'm just hoping that Frontier has plans to offer higher speeds in the future. I'd especially like to see faster upload speeds.

Dave Warner

Clear is no-go in Parkwood, because this is the neighborhood where wireless signal goes to die. Verizon's DSL service degraded to the point where I couldn't use it anymore, so I switched back to TWC. I considered calling Frontier to try DSL again, but after their so-called "customer service" people were exceptionally rude to my parents, they're a no-go, too.

I'm not as mad at TWC today as I have been, because I discovered that I have access to ESPN3 -- which I wasn't expecting from what I heard about their deal with ESPN. That said, I really wish this town had other viable options for Internet service. As of right now, though, there's no movement on a municipal fiber network, and no interest in AT&T bringing U-Verse here to spur even the slightest bit of real competition.

I bet if someone ran for city council on a platform of muni fiber, they'd probably get a lot of votes. Until that happens, though, TWC owns the Internet in this town. More's the pity.

Dan S.

>> I bet if someone ran for city council on a
>> platform of muni fiber, they'd probably
>> get a lot of votes.

*Someone* might do just that.

It'd be nice to see the City Council of "pushy little Durham" pushing on behalf of its citizenry, again.


In TWC's defense, their Internet service has improved a bit in the past couple of years. It's still far from perfect, but more reliable than it was. There is, as was already mentioned, a noticeable slowdown during prime Netflix hours - this was especially pronounced during the recent inclement weather events, when apparantly everybody stayed home and watched Netflix.

Now, about their phone service - the best I can say about it is that it's no worse than Verizon was.

Mohamad Goldberg

@Dave Warner - How have you been able to get ESPN3. I have tried numerous times, but am being told TimeWarner isn't in on it yet.


My Time Warner cable and internet service have been pretty good. Especially when compared to the headaches we had with Comcast in DC. However our bill is steep... $125 for basic cable and middle speed internet is pricey!


Wireless speeds (4G) are slowly creeping up to TWC and Frontier levels... My assumption is that it will be as reliable as my current cell phone service but it never goes down for hours at a time.

At the end of the day, ALL of the carriers are going to have to start spending money to upgrade their infrastructure. This is why they want to charge more for certain applications/users. (e.g. Netflix fee, Skype surcharge, etc.)

I'm holding on to Cisco's stock... :)


@ Mohamad

If you have Time Warner cable with a television package that has ESPN, then you can access ESPN3 online.

If you don't get ESPN via cable television, then you can't access ESPN3 online using your Time Warner login id.


i had a lot of problems with time warner when cable first rolled out in chapel hill in the early 2000s. now adays I don't actually have any problem with the internet (apart from the low speed). 50 mbit/5 mbit sounds great, I'd pay $100 for that. At least until theres some competition (which high prices should attract eventually). I actually called TWC for an unrelated reason this morning and the guy said it was going to be the cost of what turbo is now + $20.



I have the basic broadcast TWC in Durham (no ESPN) and the cheapest, slowest RoadRunner, and because of some deal TWC made in the area, I can access ESPN3 just fine. It doesn't show any kind of login.

Last year, if I took my laptop to Chapel Hill, I was able to watch ESPN3 online, but not in Durham. This year, I can.


It seems only lately (since sometime in mid-early February) that our TW Internet connection repeatedly drops (like in the double digits during the day) and is becoming slower and slower. Is anyone else in Durham zip 27704 having these issues? (The speed has always been somewhat slow, but the incessant dropped connection is maddening).


I have RR Lite in zip 27703, and have never experienced any significant drop-off in speeds or disconnects for browsing, and standard YouTube videos run perfectly well. However the TW TV IPad app often stops and starts unless you have regular RR or Turbo, probably because the channels are all HD.


Available in downtown Durham as of May 13th, 2011. I live in West Village and ordered the service yesterday. They will be here Monday morning to install. I'm told they just need to replace the modem. While $100/month is pricey; my father in NJ gets 50Mbps up and down for $40 a month and this is 50/5, it's the only option available if you want these speeds.


Twc promotions are for six months at a time and you call them every six months and they will give the promotion rate of 29.95 a month for basic, 9.95 for turbo which currently is 15/1 Mbps download/upload.
Yes, you have to call them every six months when your bill goes up if you threaten to disconnect and they will switch your plan. I don't mind the haggling for a 50% promotional discount but I would appreciate if I didn't have to.


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