Lawrence’s largest Internet service provider will start a major upgrade later this month to provide more reliable Internet speeds in the city.
Kelvin Fee, senior vice president for WOW — the Internet and cable provider that bought Knology almost a year ago — said the company is expanding its broadband capacity that connects WOW’s Lawrence Internet infrastructure to the broader cross-country fiber network that allows access to the World Wide Web.
“It is basically a bigger pipe that will allow us to get to the outside world with greater speed,” said Fee, who was in Lawrence on Wednesday. “I think in another month, all the issues people have had with Internet speeds will be resolved.”
The upgrade comes as the WOW name begins replacing the Knology brand across Lawrence. WOW purchased Knology in July 2012, and Fee said company officials recognized there were issues with customers experiencing slower in Internet connections.
“We’ve been behind the scenes talking about what needs to change, and we feel we’re well on the way now,” Fee said.
The upgrade also comes at a time when Lawrence city commissioners are being asked to provide a subsidy to a rival Internet provider that wants to bring to Lawrence the same super-fast Internet service that the Google Fiber project is providing in Kansas City.
Lawrence-based Wicked Broadband — which previously operated as Lawrence Freenet — is seeking a $500,000 grant from the city to help launch a pilot project to bring 1-Gigabit Internet service to portions of Lawrence.
Fee said WOW will ask city officials to not provide subsidies or incentives in the broadband market.
“We think a company should be able to compete in any market, but the competition has to be fair,” Fee said. “If any city starts doing one thing for one provider and not others, that is not a level playing field. We would have significant issues at that point.”
As for the desire for Lawrence to have the super-fast 1-gigabit service, Fee said WOW doesn’t have any plans to offer that level of speed in the foreseeable future.
“We’ll continue to increase the speeds available as more people start to use the Internet for more services,” Fee said. “But we don’t believe there is a tremendous need in any city for that level currently.”
In other news from WOW, Fee said:
• The company plans to begin offering a “whole-house DVR system” to Lawrence area cable subscribers in the next six to nine months. Currently, WOW’s DVR system in Lawrence does not allow users to record a program in one room and watch it in another. The new system will allow people play back DVR recordings on any television set in the house. The new system also will allow for three recordings at once, while the current system only allows for one.
• The company doesn’t have any plans to make changes to Channel 6, the cable channel that offers local programming and news. WOW doesn’t own such local channels in its other markets, but Fee said the company is still evaluating the operation.
“There are no plans at this point to do anything with it,” Fee said. “We have come to realize that it is an important part of the community.”
• WOW has 102 employee as part of its Lawrence operations. Fee said the company does use some contract workers to perform tasks that Knology did in-house, but he said he doesn’t expect any reduction in WOW’s Lawrence workforce.
“We feel comfortable with the staff size that we have,” Fee said.
The Lawrence operations had about 200 employees when Sunflower Broadband sold to Knology in October 2010. Several cuts occurred under Knology, which sold to WOW in July 2012. Sunflower Broadband was owned by The World Company, which owns the Journal-World and LJWorld.com.