You can't buy blazingly fast, 1 billion-bit-per-second Internet service just anywhere in Minneapolis, but 4,000 homeowners soon will be in the right place for it.
USI Wireless, a unit of U.S. Internet Corp. of Minnetonka, will expand its honeycomb of fiber-optic cables that support the Minneapolis Wi-Fi network, which the company operates under a contract with the city.
As Internet customers have placed more demand on the Wi-Fi network by downloading more video, USI Wireless has over the last three years installed more fiber to speed the delivery of data to antennas around the city. Those antennas then allow download speeds of 1 million to 6 million bits per second, or megabits.
But residents who live near the buried fiber can buy much-faster wired Internet service from USI Wireless, up to 1 billion bits per second, or 1 gigabit.
The 4,000 homes that will be passed by the new USI Wireless fiber are in the southern part of the city, and include those on Hennepin Avenue (2600 through 2700 blocks), Lyndale Avenue (2400 through 2700 blocks) and James Avenue (1700 through 2800 blocks.) A complete list of affected streets is available at http://fiber.usin ternet.com/coverage-areas.
Homes adjacent to the fiber-optic cable can buy 1-gigabit wired Internet access for $99 a month, 100-megabit for $50 a month or 25-megabit for $25 a month, said Joe Caldwell, CEO of Minnetonka-based USI Wireless.
Neither Comcast nor CenturyLink, the leading providers of Internet access, offers a 1-gigabit residential Internet service in the Twin Cities. Comcast's 25-megabit service costs more than twice as much as the USI Wireless service. However, Comcast and CenturyLink offer home Internet service throughout most of the Twin Cities, while USI Wireless serves only Minneapolis residential customers.
USI Wireless began installing a spider web of fiber-optic cables in Minneapolis in 2011, and about 12,600 homes are currently eligible for the high-speed wired Internet service, Caldwell said. So far, about 6,000 of those homes subscribe to the superfast wired Internet service, he said.
"Most people don't take the 1-gigabit service," Caldwell said. "They don't know what to do with that much speed."
Because of the limited area where the superfast wired Internet service is available, the bulk of USI Wireless' 27,000 home customers, about 21,000, are still Wi-Fi customers who pay from $25 a month for 1-megabit downloads to $41 a month for 6 megabits, Caldwell said. The city of Minneapolis is an anchor tenant on the Wi-Fi network, and buys Wi-Fi service for city departments.
Steve Alexander • 612-673-4553