Though most utilities and cable companies have useful websites, getting them on the phone is still the fastest way to get service set up.
Your first phone call should probably be to the City of Austin itself. The city provides electricity, water and garbage pickup services for all residents, and it’s all included on a single bill. If you’re moving into a house, the city will provide a standard-size trash can and recycling container; however, if you’re a light or a heavy user of either service, you can request a smaller or larger can. The city charges less for the smaller receptacles to encourage residents to compost and use products with minimal packaging.
There's only one option in Austin for natural gas service. The company is not locally based, so you may have to navigate through a series of choices on the phone before reaching the right person. Contact Texas Gas Service at: (800) 700-2443
The cable/Internet category is evolving rapidly. Time-Warner Cable and AT&T Uverse offer cable TV and Internet services throughout the city. Google Fiber, Grande Communications and DirecTV cover only parts of the city.
Though its customer service is generally despised in Austin, Time-Warner Cable still retains a large chunk of the market share in central Texas. (800) 892-4357
AT&T’s Internet service is generally reliable, but the cable TV service is prone to glitches such as temporarily frozen screens. (800) 288-2020
As a smaller cable TV/Internet provider, Grande is willing to compete for your business and offer better prices. However, service is available only in limited areas, and customers report frequent Internet outages. (855) 286-6666
If you don’t mind the ugly satellite dish on your roof, the TV service is generally reliable. Thunderstorms generally don’t affect the signal, except during extremely heavy downpours. The company, now part of AT&T, does not provide Internet service over the satellite. (888) 795-9488
Google Fiber generated huge excitement when it started signing people up for its ultra-high-speed Internet service in the spring of 2015. As of December 2016, Google Fiber is up and running in pockets throughout Austin. Even if it is available in your neighborhood, it may take up to three months to actually get the service installed. However, among those who've had the service now for about a year, there seems to be widespread satisfaction with it. The basic package offered is comparable in price to AT&T’s mid-level package but with 10 times the Internet speed.
Verizon and AT&T are the dominant cell phone service providers in central Texas. There are dozens of other small and mid-size companies offering cell phone service. Read the fine print, though, and most of the bargain-basement companies actually have deals with the larger networks. If you’re on a tight budget, consider a prepaid plan from T-Mobile or Cricket Wireless.
Water Meter Controversy
In the summer of 2017, residents all over Austin reported exorbitantly high water bills. At first, city officials dismissed many of their claims and suggested that they may have had faulty watering systems or other issues inside the house. A KXAN report in January 2018 revealed that the city has finally admitted that as many as 7,000 households were overcharged. The city now claims that the error occurred during a period in which a new subcontractor was taking over the meter-reading process. To prevent future errors, the city is now requiring meter readers to take a photo of the meter each time they read it.
As a precaution, some consumers are taking the extra step of taking photos of their meters on their own a couple of times per month so that they will have a record in case more errors occur.
Money Saving Tips
With the adoption of the Austin Resource Recovery Master Plan, the city set the ambitious goal of preventing 90% of discarded items from ending up in landfills by 2040. Here’s how you can help with the effort and save a little money in the process.
Smaller Trash Can
The city offers four sizes of trash cans, ranging from 96 gallons ($33.50 per month) to 24 gallons ($13.35 per month). Using a smaller can doesn’t necessarily require making a major lifestyle change. If you review the guidelines for single-stream recycling, you may find that you’ve been throwing away items that are actually recyclable. Virtually every type of cardboard is now recyclable, from corrugated boxes to small medicine containers.
Made from paint collected at the city’s Household Hazardous Waste Facility, Austin Reblend is available in Texas Limestone (beige) and Balcones Canyonland (dark beige). Those are the only colors available, but what do you expect for free? The paint is also low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Pick it up at 2514 Business Center Drive, Austin, TX 78744, or call (512) 974-4343.