E’ville Biz: Is it time to cut the cord? Webpass leading “Streaming Era” of TV in Emeryville

Published On April 16, 2015 | By Rob Arias | Local Business, News & Commentary

The successful defense of Net Neutrality by a 3-2 vote back in February ensured that ISP’s could not block, throttle or utilize paid prioritization of content. A battle that saw a collection of small internet activists (and some not so small ones like Google & Microsoft) wage a campaign and prevail against some of the biggest, most well-funded lobbyist groups in Washington led by Verizon, AT&T and Comcast. While this was nearly universally cheered by consumers and freedom advocates, the fact of the matter is that most of the U.S. is still left with little choice of whom we get internet service from. If the proposed merger between Comcast & Time-Warner is allowed to go through, they would cover 80% of California and there would be one fewer choice.

In Emeryville, we’re lucky enough to have at least one additional option: Webpass. Webpass has advocated for Net Neutrality from the start and their official policy is stated simply on their website. A vote for Webpass is a vote for Net Neutrality.

isp-lobbying-graph
ISP’s like Verizon, AT&T & Comcast spend $20MM annually lobbying against Net Neutrality.

The cable industry is on the verge of a major disruption. Cable companies know it’s coming and instead of adapting, are trying to fight it through legislation and consolidation. Netflix is now reported to be 35% of peak internet traffic and Cable companies aren’t fond of this. They of course have competing services so if left unchecked, would prefer to “penalize” services that are eating away at their bottom line (you see a conflict of interest here?). If the major providers had their druthers, they’d like to kill the “all you can eat” model and move consumers to an allotted data plan similar to our mobile phone carrier plans. In the wake of expensive bills and more choices, “Cord-Cutting” is becoming an increasingly attractive option for consumers. Cord Cutting is the act of dropping cable completely in lieu of streaming shows directly from the internet.

Cable-Satellite-subscribers
As Cable subscription rates continue to go up, their subscriber base continues to plummet.

For those with a heavy TV diet this might not make sense, but for those that have decided to slim down TV consumption, now is the time (honestly, I watch as much TV as ever, I just don’t mindlessly “Channel Surf” anymore). When I finally killed my cable a few months ago, I was paying nearly $100/month for a fairly average package. Cable companies aren’t dumb and they generally lure you into bundling their services and content packages to milk every dollar out of you (oh you want ESPN in HD? You’ll need our “Platinum” Package!). Now I’m paying for Netflix ($7.99/mo.), Hulu Plus (also $7.99), Amazon Prime ($99/yr.), CBS All Access ($5.99/mo) & newly available HBO Now ($15/mo. … just in time for Game of Thrones!) for the tidy sum of around $40/mo. There’s also plenty of free content available elsewhere. An additional benefit of the new streaming paradigm is that managing your DVR and setting recording schedules are becoming a thing of the past as entire series of programs and “binge watching” are becoming the prevailing method of consuming content. Since Webpass is YouTube HD verified in Google’s latest Video Quality Report, video will stream without buffering or pixelation.

I personally stream shows off a combination of my Apple TV and my iPad with its integrated Airplay feature but of course there are several options. Google Chromecast, Roku & Amazon Fire all plug into your TV’s HDMI port and can be found for as little at $30. My Apple TV remote has four buttons and the navigation is intuitive (No more scrolling through 1000’s of channels or using an antiquated cable user-interface to find what I want to watch). Sling TV announced a package at CES earlier this year that includes ESPN, AMC, HGTV, TNT, A&E and others for $20/mo. Apple, Google and others are rumored to be working on their own packages. I think it’s pretty clear that 2015 is the year of streaming. Live sports remains the last hold out, but there’s hope. Sony’s PlayStation Vue streaming TV service launched recently in New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia for $50/mo. and includes live sports programs.

streaming-options

The rates at Webpass are extremely competitive at $55/month (and as low as $30/mo. with their built-in option), and if you work from home like I do (and apparently many of us do in Emeryville), having a fast, reliable connection is imperative. Webpass has speeds of 100, 200, or even 500Mbps. You won’t need to rent or buy a modem, there are no contracts and the support is local. There is no fine print or hidden fees. Residents need to advocate with their HOA board to get them in but it’s totally HOA neutral so there’s really no reason for them to say no (unless they’re getting kick backs from Comcast?). If there’s any downside to Webpass, it’s still not viable for them to bring service to single family homes or smaller buildings with older infrastructures. Does Webpass support this hyperlocal news blog? Yes. Would I use them regardless? Absolutely. Choice and supporting “the little guy” are pillars of this platform (Oh, did I mention they have a 4.5 star Yelp review?).

A Map of existing Webpass enabled complexes:

webpass-service-maps

And “Webpass Ready” units that for whatever reason don’t offer their residents choice yet:

  • Emme (New): 6350 Christie
  • Parkside Apartments (New): 5780 Hollis
  • Parc on Powell (New): 1333 Powell
  • Bay Street Apartments: 5684 Bay Street
  • Icon at Park: 1401 Park
  • Icon at Doyle: 5540 Doyle

Want more info? Call 1-800-WEBPASS or visit them online.

Feature image: Webpass employees Jennifer & Brooke. I recently took a tour of the SF offices of Webpass with a fleet of Electric cars and charging stations.

Further Reading & Resources:

The FCC’s Net Neutrality Vote: Here’s What You Need To Know | NPR: The Two Way
Calculate what it would cost to get all of your TV Online | The Verge
Your Guide to Cutting the Cord to Cable TV | NPR Mediashift
Roku vs. Apple TV vs. Chromecast vs. Amazon Fire: Which should you buy? | CNET

About The Author

is a third generation Californian and East Bay native who moved to Emeryville in 2003. A new parent in the community, he can often be seen walking his French Bulldog rescue "Fiona" around his Park Avenue District neighborhood, traversing the greenway on his bike or enjoying his favorite Emeryville small businesses. Rob's "day job" is as a creative professional.

Leave a Reply