CenturyLink Inc., the main provider of land-line phone service in the Twin Cities, said Tuesday it is juicing the speed of its metro Internet service, aiming for the 1,000-megabits-per-second rate already seen in densely populated Asian cities.
That speed, also known as 1 gigabit per second, is available immediately in selected residential areas and for some small businesses, the company said.
For “proprietary reasons,” Century Link declined to identify those neighborhoods and business districts. Tyler Middleton, Twin Cities general manager for CenturyLink, said the fiber-optic service would be available in most of the metro area within a year.
The 1 gigabit speed is 25 times faster than the 40 megabits per second that is the fastest rate Century Link previously offered in the market.
“Whether it’s with consumers or businesses, there is an insatiable appetite for [more] bandwidth,” Middleton said.
Cost of the new residential service ranges from $79.95 to $109 per month, depending on bundling packages with other services. The cost for small business customers is based on size. CenturyLink will offer a 40-megabit service for qualified low-income customers starting at $9.95 a month.
The Twin Cities is one of 16 metro areas in which CenturyLink said it was deploying the speedier service. The company previously offered pilot programs in parts of Omaha, Las Vegas and Salt Lake City.
CenturyLink said the Minneapolis-St. Paul area was chosen as an early adapter for high-speed service because of its “local culture around innovation, support from leaders in the community and the quality of the existing CenturyLink fiber architecture.”
The U.S. for more than a decade has lagged countries in Asia and Europe that upgraded their Internet networks to faster speeds. The 1-gigabit speed has been common for several years in cities such as Tokyo, Seoul and Hong Kong.
The median download speed in the United States is 18.47 megabits per second, 30th among all countries, according to the Internet Society, a forum and advocacy group formed by two of the Internet’s early engineers.
The Federal Communications Commission last year issued a challenge to Century Link and other Internet service providers to upgrade their networks so that at least one city in each of the 50 states had 1-gigabit service by next year. Google Inc. has tested 1-gigabit service in portions of Kansas City, Austin and Provo, Utah, and recently announced plans to deploy it in nine other cities.
The upgrade requires service providers to change the type of wire that goes into a home. Instead of relying on the copper wire that phone companies deployed for most of the last century, the 1-gigabit level of service has to be delivered via fiber-optic line. In much of the Twin Cities, that means CenturyLink will have to replace wiring on poles or buried under yards.
However, Middleton said CenturyLink already has “thousands of route miles” of fiber on which to build the higher speed system in the Twin Cities.
In a statement, Michael Langley, CEO of Greater MSP, a regional economic development organization, called Tuesday’s announcement a “critical investment.”
“The Greater MSP region’s highly educated workforce and future of innovation demand the Internet speeds of the future,” Langley said.
Margaret Anderson Kelliher, CEO of the Minnesota High Tech Association, said high-speed Internet service “is imperative” for Minnesota to compete globally.