Grande Communications

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Photo Credit: Mariana Munoz | Daily Texan Staff

Students in West Campus now have the option for a gigabit Internet service that, while present in parts of Austin, has not been available in the area for residents to purchase.

Grande Communications is the first service provider to bring gigabit Internet to West Campus, beating other providers to the area. Grande said the new service provides Internet that is 10 times faster than its current Internet plan. Grande’s gigabit service has been offered since February in other parts of Austin and costs $64.99 a month.

“It’s available now,” said Matt Rohre, senior vice president of operations and general manager for Grande. “Everyone else is talking about theirs, and ours is there. People are using it.” 

Grande expanded its service to West Campus to reach University students, Rohre said.

“We know students, as much as or more than anyone else, truly value a great Internet experience,” Rohre said “It was adjacent to our existing territory and kind of a logical progression for us to go [to West Campus] and make the service available in that area.”

Google Fiber announced its Austin pricing plan Monday. The company’s services will start in Austin in December but, at this time, will not be offered in West Campus. Mark Strama, head of Google Fiber Austin, said Monday that the service could become available to students living in the area in the future.

Emma Duffy, accounting and finance junior, said the high-speed Internet would be helpful since the Internet in her West Campus co-op is inconsistent. She said she would be willing to pay for the service.

“Students use a lot of streaming services and faster speeds are good for that,” Duffy said. “My connection is a bit annoying at
the moment.”

Despite Grande’s service being available now, Corey Monreal-Jackson, human development and family sciences junior and West Campus resident, said he does not plan to purchase the service from Grande. He said he would only pay for the gigabit services if Google offered them, even if services are comparable.

“Google’s a buzzword,” Monreal-Jackson said. “You hear Google and you already are for it because, whether or not they truly are the best, they are going to be known as the best regardless of the services they offer.”

Karen Munoz, undeclared freshman and West Campus resident, said, while services like the gigabit Internet are nice, they are too expensive and are unnecessary for students.

“I think that’s too much for Internet,” Munoz said. “Right now I don’t pay anything where I live, and my Internet seems fine. I don’t think it’s slow or anything, so I wouldn’t buy it.”

For more information about Google Fiber's pricing plans, check out our full story here

UT alumnus Matt Portillo will watch Saturday’s football game against Wyoming from the Texas Exes Etter-Harbin Alumni Center. Although great company is an attraction, Portillo is not going there for the company. He is going because it is one of the few places in Austin to watch the game.

Longhorn football fans without tickets or a subscription to cable providers carrying the Longhorn Network will not be able to watch UT’s first two football games against Wyoming and New Mexico.

Although frustrations are high, Austin fans are in luck. LHN announced Wednesday it will host free viewing parties for both games at Republic Square Park, located at 422 Guadalupe Street in downtown Austin.

Friday morning, officials announced AT&T UVerse will carry the LHN in time for the football game against the University of Wyoming, and UVerse's almost 6 million sbscribers began seeing the channel in their program guides. Until the UVerse deal, LHN was only offered on Grande Communications, national provider Verizon FiOS and many other smaller providers like Austin’s Consolidated Communications and Houston’s En-Touch Systems.

Portillo, who was a student last year when the first game was also shown exclusively on LHN, said the students most affected would be alumni living far away who can’t attend viewing parties or watch the game on campus. Texas Exes hosts tailgates for all home games and will get coverage directly from the stadium, not LHN.

“I feel like we’re at the point now where we almost need to start asking, ‘Is the Longhorn Network doing more harm to the University’s brand than good?” Portillo, a Texas Exes member, said. “I know it is a 20-year contract, but it seems to be costing us more, and it’s not strictly monetary.”

Apart from offering fans an opportunity to watch the first two games, LHN has released no further information on when the UT community can expect wider distribution. Kristy Ozmun, a spokesperson for LHN, said ESPN is having active discussions with all cable providers. Last week Ozmun said she could not comment on a timetable for negotiations.

Matt Murphy, Grande Communications president, said his company decided to sponsor viewing parties because they are aware the company has somewhat limited coverage in Austin. Murphy said Grande covers near 25 percent of the city and provides service to the UT area, including the residence halls, and is looking to expand during the next three years.

He said carrying the Longhorn Network has helped business at Grande.

“It is certainly a plus for us, because our competition doesn’t have it,” Murphy said. “But for UT and Longhorn Network, more distribution is better. They’ve been a great partner and we want them to succeed.”

Launched August 2011, LHN is a 20-year partnership between UT and ESPN. For the first five years, 50 percent of net right fees from LHN will go toward academic initiatives, according to Texas Sports.

Some endowed academic chairs have already been created by this agreement. All on-campus residence halls carry LHN, paid for by student fees.

UT President William Powers Jr. and athletics director DeLoss Dodds were scheduled to give a five-minute LHN status update to the UT System Board of Regents last week. However, plans changed at the last minute, and the board took the update off the agenda.

At the meeting, Powers told The Daily Texan that talking about ongoing negotiations could cause potential harm and said he would update the regents at a later time. He said ESPN is dedicated to getting wider distribution.

“We want the widest distribution for fans,” Powers said at the meeting. “We have a great partner in ESPN and this is job one for them.”

At his weekly press conference, UT head football coach Mack Brown said he has become more comfortable with LHN and its involvement with Texas football during the past year. Brown is currently doing three one-hour shows on LHN.

“I don’t have anything to do with the sales of it or where it’s going, but like the large number of our fans, I’ll be happy when it gets greater distribution.”

Ryan Kelly, a Time Warner Cable spokesperson for Central Texas, said although Time Warner has a great relationship with ESPN, LHN negotiations are not active, and the company has no plans to carry LHN. All Time Warner Cable programming is distributed nationwide to more than 15 million customers.

“As expected, we’ve had inquiries about the LHN which coincides a lot with college football season, but right now the overall volume remains light,” Kelly said.
The Longhorn Network will broadcast Texas v. Wyoming Saturday at 7 p.m.

Story updated to incude current information about the LHN deal with AT&T UVerse: 11:30 p.m. 8/31/12

Additional reporting by Chris Hummer.

Printed on August 31, 2012 as: "Limited coverage causes frustration"

UT President William Powers Jr. and Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds will provide a Longhorn Network status update to the Board of Regents at a meeting Thursday, according to an agenda book posted online Friday.


The agenda provided no other information about what kind of updates the president or athletic director might present to the regents. Gary Susswein, a UT spokesperson, said he did not have any information in advance on what Powers would say.

 

ESPN, which operates the network, will exclusively air the season's first two football games live on the LHN. Unless another cable provider picks up the network, fans in Central Texas that do not have Grande Communications will not be able to watch the game.

 

Last fall, Grande Communications charged each room on campus an additional $1.50 to cover the LHN. The Division of Housing and Food services dipped into its reserve funds to pay a $69,280.50 increase in subscription fees to Grande Communications. Laurie Mackey, director of DHFS, said the University would continue to carry the LHN on campus.

"We contract with Grande and they carry the Longhorn Network," Mackey said. "To our knowledge we will continue to have the Longhorn Network in the residence halls."

This year, Mackey said the subscription fee was included in the room rates and that DHFS will not have to use its reserve funds to pay for the LHN.

Since the LHN’s launch last August, ESPN has struggled to score a deal with a major Central Texas cable provider like Time Warner Cable to broadcast the UT sports orientated channel. Grande Communications, the company UT contracts for television on campus, is the only cable provider in Central Texas that offers the network. Seven other providers throughout Texas, including Verizon’s FiOS TV in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, carry the LHN.