USI Wi-Fi upgrade will add speed, for some in Minneapolis

  • Article by: STEVE ALEXANDER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 25, 2012 - 9:36 PM

A fiber-optic cable could help up to 10,000 south Minneapolis households.

Video downloads are straining the Minneapolis Wi-Fi network, prompting an upgrade that will boost capacity for all users and provide a huge speed increase for some.

USI Wireless of Minnetonka, which runs the Minneapolis Wi-Fi network, said about 10,000 south Minneapolis households (houses and apartments) will have the option of getting Internet download speeds of 1 billion bits per second, or one gigabit, via the new fiber-optic cable. About 200 times faster than the average U.S. household Internet connection, it's available only in a few places in the nation.

It isn't known how many households on the cable route will sign up. The rest of USI's 23,000 customers will be able to download video at up to 6 million bits per second, or 6 megabits, without worrying about slowdowns due to congestion, USI Wireless said.

"People are using the network differently now. Video has become 90 percent of all Internet traffic," said Travis Carter, vice president of technology at US Internet, parent company of USI Wireless. "In order to handle that, we've got to add fiber to take some of the load off the Wi-Fi antennas."

Eligible customers will be those in about 8,000 households near where the new fiber-optic cables will be routed this year along city street right-of-ways, Carter said.

The upgrade will also include more than 2,000 households passed by Wi-Fi Network fiber cables last year.

The areas where fiber-optic cable will be laid, and where homeowners or apartment dwellers can get the faster service, include Garfield, Harriet, Aldrich, Colfax and Dupont Avenues from Lake Street to the corner of 48th Street (the street address 4799 will mark the end of the route).

In addition, fiber will be laid along Fremont Avenue from 42nd to 45th streets, and along E. Harriet Parkway from 42nd to 46th streets.

If weather and time permit, USI Wireless said it will also lay fiber cable this year from Lake to 36th streets along Emerson, Fremont, Girard, Holmes, Humboldt and Irving Avenues, and shorter distances along James and Knox avenues, Carter said. Otherwise, those areas will get fiber in spring 2013.

Pricing for the service will range from $24.90 a month for 15 megabits to $99.90 a month for 1 gigabit, said Joe Caldwell, CEO of USI Wireless. There is a $99 setup fee for single-family homes, but the fee is waived for those in apartment buildings.

Steve Alexander • 612-673-4553

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