Time Warner Cable sees the Google Fiber threat and offers Austin free Wi-Fi

Competition is grand. With Google planning to build out a fiber-to-the-home network(s goog) in Austin, Texas next year, the local incumbent broadband providers are tweaking their models. AT&T has threatened to build its own fiber to the home,(s t) gigabit network provided it gets the same concessions from state and city officials that Google did. And Time Warner Cable(s twc)? Well, it’s offering Austin subscribers free Wi-Fi.

In a blog post Wednesday evening, Time Warner said that existing customers with its standard cable package or above can log onto a city-wide Wi-Fi network the cable company is building out. Why now? Time Warner cites Google Fiber’s plans as a reason to kick its free Wi-Fi project into gear.

We’ve been rolling out our free WiFi network across our footprint for some time now, as part of our larger strategy to offer significantly more value to our Internet subscribers. Austin was in the game plan for 2013. But Google’s recent announcement encouraged us to deploy our network more aggressively now. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, we’re ready to compete.

While paying $70 for 30 Mbps internet service from Time Warner Cable and now getting free Wi-Fi around town is nice, if Google offers me a deal where I get a gigabit connection for anywhere near the Kansas City price tag of $70, free Wi-Fi isn’t going to stop me. It won’t even make me pause.

Still while, I wait to hear where Google will deploy fiber and how much it will cost, I’ll gladly check out the TWC Wi-Fi network. So far it’s only in a few locations, but the company plans to expand it around town. Customers can sign into the network, called TWC WiFi and use same username/password combo they use sign log into their account. Non subscribers can also pay $2.95 per hour for access. Subscribers also get access to other Wi-Fi networks in cities including New York City; Los Angeles; Chicago; Philadelphia; Atlanta; Baltimore; Boston; Washington, D.C.; San Francisco; Orlando; Kansas City; and Charlotte.

As far as responses to the threat of Google Fiber go, Time Warner’s is immediate and measured, especially when compared to AT&T’s. AT&T — with its fiber-to-the-node connections that currently top out at 24 Mbps — has a lot less than TWC has to offer when it comes to fending Google’s gigabit speeds. And after the 2009 experiment in broadband caps that Time Warner Cable attempted in Austin, it’s nice to have the city singled out for a benefit instead of a punitive pricing plan.