High-speed broadband Internet connections are cheap and prolific in larger cities. According to one company, Blanco should be hooked up soon.
Time Warner Cable companies in Austin and San Antonio provide such connections to customers over their cable networks. Phone companies, like Verizon, which serves the Blanco area, provide broadband over DSL connections that use the standard phone lines.
In Blanco and other Hill Country towns, however, there aren't enough customers to economically justify installing high-speed data connection--known as fiber, short for a fiber optic cable.
For many years, Internet users were limited to slow dial-up connections. Companies like Momentum brought high-speed wireless to the region, using radios mounted on rooftops that communicate with nearby towers.
Customers in Blanco now have a variety of options for high-speed internet, including satellite connections, but the high speeds familiar to the big cities haven't reached us.
The question many have asked is, "When?"
Lee J. Gierczynski, with Verizon, notes that Blanco presents some unique challenges for the phone company as they don't have contiguous network facilities from Blanco. To get DSL to Blanco, Verizon "would need to lease facilities from other companies and, at this point, that cost wouldn't make it economically feasible."
While Verizon can't get DSL to Blanco, another company is preparing to make a connection.
According to Jon Gary Herrera, Vice President of Governmental and Public Affairs for Time Warner Cable San Antonio, there are plans in the works right now to have the Blanco cable system upgraded for digital services in the course of the next 18 to 24 months. Services include those that are advertised all the time: high-speed Internet, digital cable, and digital phone service.
"There's tremendous growth that has been happening," Herrera said. "It has helped precipitate the expansion of the facilities that are tied into Blanco. ... We've been keeping an eye on Blanco."
"With this type of investment, we should also see an increase in the number of subscribers," added Herrera. The company's Internet division, RoadRunner, will offer speeds up to 10 Megabits per second (Mbps). "That's what we're looking to bring to Blanco."
At the first opportunity, and with a partnership with Time Warner Cable's Austin division, the two are meeting halfway to get Blanco upgraded. The fiber will come down from Marble Falls, hitting the developments north of Blanco on the way.
"Keeping up with the growth is the challenge," said Hererra. "We're trying to hit as many growth pockets as possible."
The new cable will have a wider effect as Momentum, which has recently merged with ERF Wireless, will most likely use the new data connection to bring faster Internet speeds to its current high-speed wireless customers in the area.
"It will be exciting for Momentum," said Robert "Bobby Mack" McClung, manager of Momentum. "In Marble Falls, we are switching to Time Warner Cable so we can get as much bandwidth as we need to deliver to our customers."
Momentum hopes to get the service in Blanco, where currently microwave links connect the Internet users to fiber in San Antonio. "Being able to get directly on the fiber connection here in Blanco," McClung continued, "we could offer higher speeds and more reliable service to our customers. ... It's better communications infrastructure for the entire area."
One of ERF Wireless' goals is to offer 5 Mbps, or higher, speeds to their users. The company offers speeds up to 1.5 to 2 Mbps currently. "That brings this closer to reality," McClung said, who hopes this fiber connection will bring "virtually unlimited bandwidth for our users."