March 27, 2015

1-gig Internet speeds slowly move into Rochester

Want crazy fast gigabit-per-second Internet broadband speeds?

Maybe move to New Hampshire, where TDS Telecom has begun offering speeds of up to 1 gig over its fiber optic network to rural towns there. Or the scattering of cities across the West and South where Google has set up its Google Fiber network, similar promising speeds of up to a gigabit per second.

Or Chattanooga, Tennessee, which launched its own municipal 1-gig network to every residence and businesses. Or Oregon or Durham, N.C.,, where Frontier Communications Corp. last fall began rolling out up to a gigabit per second Internet speeds to homes and small businesses.

Closer to home, maybe just relocate to the Highland Park neighborhood of Rochester, where East Rochester’s Greenlight Networks LLC crews earlier this week were stringing up fiber optic lines to bring speeds up to 1 gigabit to homes and businesses there. And Steuben County-based Empire Access earlier this month began offering speeds of up to a gigabit per second on Ontario County’s fiber optic ring, starting with the village of Naples.

A gigabit per second is the new black in the Internet service provision world, as a growing number of phone companies, Internet service providers, and even municipalities are offering 1-gig speeds or have announced plans to do so.

But don’t hold your breath waiting for 1-gig speeds to become the norm for Internet service providers across the Rochester area.

EarthLink Inc. which offers up to 20-megabit-per-second speeds with its cable Internet offering in the Rochester region, hasn’t announced any plans to get into the 1-gig broadband market for residential or small business. And spokeswoman Pamela O’Connor said it has no plans for now to offer 1-gig broadband speeds for residences of small businesses in the Rochester area in the coming year.

Time Warner Cable thus far has committed to 1-gig speeds for one market, Los Angeles, which it plans to roll out in 2016.

Both Oregon and the Durham area remain trials for Frontier, “to help us make decisions for other markets,” said David Snyder, East region vice president of engineering for Frontier.

Despite the proliferation of speeds of up to a gigabyte, consumers don’t seem hugely interested in upgrading, said Snyder: “The primary product is still around 12 (megabits per second),” with fewer Frontier customers upgrading to its Ultimate broadband package of twice that.

Meanwhile, he said, “Most consumers don’t have the equipment in their house to take advantage of that bandwidth. They’d be hard pressed to drive that much bandwidth to those devices, even if (every laptop, tablet and smartphone in the house) all were streaming Netflix 24/7.”

But when trying to lure customers with promises of blazing-hot speeds, he said. “It’s much more sexy to say 1 gig than to say 100 meg.”

However, said Greenlight owner Mark Murphy, “I liken it to the change that was made when we went from dialup to broadband. When Time Warner came out with Roadrunner and took that next speed leap ahead, the folks comfortable with providing a slower speed were the first to say people didn’t need it. Once enough people get their hands on this faster speed, the applications always follow.

“I look at my own house and my wife is watching Netflix upstairs, my kids are watching their shows on their tablets or phones and I’m certainly doing something else. It adds up awfully quickly. With more of these streaming sources coming available every day, we’re in the middle of transformation.”

The cost of a gig per second Internet access can vary widely. Frontier’s Oregon service reportedly costs $220 a month. Greenlight earlier this month announced it was cutting its pricing by more than half, to $100 a month. And Google Fiber is charging $70 a month for its gigabit Internet access.

Greenlight started in 2011, and began with customers in Pittsford. “Now we’ve got communities reaching out to us to take a look. It becomes for us a function of how quickly we can expand. Having the fiber (optic) assets is really the most critical piece, and frankly the most expensive piece,” though Greenlight also will use excess fiber optic capacity from others’ networks, Murphy said.

If Frontier decided to expand that trial into other markets, Rochester “would definitely be one of the following markets,” Snyder said.

And if not quite a gig, faster speeds in the near future are in the works. The Cuomo administration has been pushing what it calls its “Broadband for All” initiative, which includes such goals as every New Yorker having “access to affordable broadband at speeds of 100 mbps download/50 mbps upload.”

Meanwhile Frontier likely will roll out a 100-megabit offering within the next year to 18 months, Snyder said. “The demand for bandwidth is not going away,” Snyder said. “Every year consumers’ usage keeps going up.”

MDANEMAN@DemocratandChronicle.com

Click to read article at the Democrat and Chronicle.