Wednesday, November 14, 2001

Hawaii high-speed
Internet draws a crowd

Earthlink and America
Online join Road Runner
in offering cable service

By Russ Lynch

In a major increase in high-speed Internet competition in Hawaii, EarthLink and America Online have both made their services available through Time Warner Cable, which already delivers the Road Runner Internet service and Oceanic Cable television programming.

Initial pricing for unlimited "always-on" use is $41.95 a month for EarthLink and $44.95 a month for AOL.

Cable service is about 25 times faster than the fastest telephone Internet service used by most households. It will also be competition for the digital subscriber line service offered through Verizon Hawaii's telephone lines.

There are no additional charges for the use of the Time Warner high-speed fiber-optic cable, for those who already have it installed for cable television. As with Road Runner, television viewing is unaffected by the connection to a computer. Users can watch television, listen to music and use their telephones with the Internet service turned on 24 hours a day.

Most likely the initial demand for the cable services will come from existing users of EarthLink or AOL who have been using telephone dial-up lines to get those services at a much slower transmission rate, said Kit Beuret, a Time Warner Hawaii spokesman.

Time Warner Cable acts as the delivery system and is now letting the two big Internet service providers offer their services alongside Road Runner, which Time Warner owns, through the same cable system, he said.

"We are the provider of the high-speed cable modem system and we can do that for various ISPs," Beuret said. "Hopefully, in the first quarter of 2002 additional ISPs will be available via cable," he said.

"We believe that a lot of the EarthLink customers in Hawaii would switch over because they've always wanted the speed. There will be a ton of AOL users who will jump" to cable, he said.

EarthLink and AOL both issued statements yesterday promoting the wide range of services they provide and the advantage the high-speed cable brings to their customers.

They include downloading large files containing pictures and film clips in seconds rather than minutes and watching smooth and uninterrupted movie clips or live television.

"We're proud to be the first in the nation to provide consumers more ISP choices with the convenience of a super-fast connection that never requires dialing in or waiting," said Nate Smith, president of Time Warner Cable, Hawaii.

A prominent Honolulu ISP, LavaNet, says it hopes to get hooked up with Time Warner as well.

"There's no secret that LavaNet has always wanted to offer cable modem," said the company's president, Yuka Nagashima. "Since 1996, we've been negotiating with Oceanic" to try to get on their cable.

She questioned how much competition there really is, since America Online, Time Warner and Road Runner are all the same company. She said it is a pity that, so far, the ISPs chosen so far are national and there are no regional providers like hers in the list.

AOL said its high-speed service is also available through the digital subscriber line telephone system that brings fast Internet through home or office phone lines without interrupting phone service.

There are no initial connection fees and the cost of the cable modem is also built into the monthly fees at both EarthLink and AOL. EarthLink said that not only is its base rate lower than AOL's, it doesn't charge at all if customers need to connect by a dial-in system away from their homes or businesses.

Possibly in readiness for the coming competition, Road Runner recently has been offering a special deal to lure new Hawaii customers. It waived the $50 installation fee and is offering $10 a month off for the first three months.

That brings the rate to $34.95 a month for those who are already using Oceanic Cable or $39.95 a month for those who do not already have cable.

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