Some Seattle residents will now have access to laser-quick Internet.
CenturyLink announced today that it will begin offering broadband upload and download speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second (Gbps) — about 100 times faster than the average national broadband speed — to residential and business customers in four Seattle neighborhoods: Ballard, West Seattle, the Central District, and Beacon Hill. Other businesses in the Puget Sound area will also have access.
The high-speed service will cost $79.95 per month, but only when bundled with additional, qualifying CenturyLink services like a home phone or TV subscription. Most bundles will cost a minimum of $115 per month.
Residents, but not businesses, will be able to use gigabit speeds without any data caps. According to CenturyLink’s excessive use policy, there are no download limits for residential 1 Gbps customers.
Seattle is one of 13 cities where CenturyLink is launching new business and residential gigabit services today. Portland will also see the same rollout, while Spokane-area businesses will be able to use the 1 Gbps service. CenturyLink already offered the high-speed Internet in parts of Omaha, Las Vegas and Salt Lake City.
“Seattle is technology city, but there are a number of steps we as a city must take to remain a national leader, including bringing cutting-edge Internet service to more businesses and residents,” Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said in a statement. “CenturyLink’s investment in 1-gigabit fiber is a very positive step in our city’s much larger effort to increase competition and broaden access to high-speed Internet – especially for those in underserved areas of our city.”
CenturyLink’s fiber offering comes eight months after plans to bring gigabit Internet to thousands of Seattle residents crumbled after Cincinnati-based Gigabit Squared failed to raise enough money to implement a planned high-speed Internet network in 14 Seattle neighborhoods using the city’s dormant “dark fiber” network. Gigabit, which is now being sued by the City of Seattle for an unpaid bill, planned to offer 1 Gbps for $80 per month.
CenturyLink, which was fined today by Washington state regulators over billing errors, will not be using the city’s dark fiber for its gigabit network for now and instead will be built on the company’s existing fiber network.
“We have received great support from community and government leaders in Seattle who see the growth opportunities that broadband speeds of up to 1 Gig bring to the city,” a company spokesperson told GeekWire. “We will continue to explore new opportunities to expand our 1 Gig network.”
Interestingly, CenturyLink had previously tried to expand its fiber network in Seattle a few years ago, but certain city rules made it tough for the company from doing so. In its initial gigabit rollout, CenturyLink will be using aerial boxes, so SDOT Director’s Rule 2-2009 won’t come into play.
The company is launching a fiber network in the Emerald City just two months after it closed its Seattle customer care center and asked 160 employees to either relocate, apply for other positions within the company or receive severance packages
On top of the new gigabit offering, CenturyLink also plans on opening its new Cloud Development Center in Seattle, which will be operated with help from employees of Tier 3 — a Bellevue-based cloud computing startup that CenturyLink acquired this past November. The company is also building three new large data centers in the area, and still has naming rights to CenturyLink Field.
Mayor Murray, who took over in January, has made it a priority to improve Seattle’s high-speed Internet options and expressed interest earlier this year in evaluating the city’s relationship with Comcast. Seattle has a franchise agreement with Comcast that expires January 20, 2016.
Murray, who is also open to the idea of a publicly-funded Internet utility, will be addressing the media on this topic on Tuesday at 9:15 a.m., so check back for an update on his comments.
[Editor’s note: CenturyLink is a GeekWire sponsor.]
[Editor’s note 2: This post was updated with more information from CenturyLink at 7 a.m. PT.]
Update, 10 a.m. PT:
The biggest piece of news from Murray’s presser was that the mayor plans to submit legislation to City Council that will change the SDOT Director’s Rule 2-2009 and allow companies like CenturyLink to more easily build out fiber networks.
In order to reach residents with a fiber network, telecom companies must install new equipment boxes in neighborhoods. However, the Director’s Rule makes this quite difficult because it currently requires approval from at least 60 percent of homeowners within a 100 feet radius of a given box.
Murray noted how the rule was created when these boxes looked like “large refrigerators,” but now that the fiber boxes are smaller, he wants to amend the rule and allow more companies to build fiber networks in Seattle.
There was an odd moment during the press conference when CenturyLink Seattle General Manager Sue Anderson noted how her company’s gigabit rollout announced today did not require changes to the Director’s Rule since it is utilizing an aerial deployment. Just as she said that, Murray stepped in.
“We need to codify these changes before we allow this to proceed,” Murray said, referring to changes in the Director’s Rule.
Anderson would not provide a specific deadline for a complete gigabit rollout into the four neighborhoods and only noted that “it’s starting right now and will continue into 2015.”
Meanwhile, new City of Seattle CTO Michael Mattmiller referenced Seattle’s startups and the need for faster Internet connections.
“With gigabit speeds we can turn more ideas that start in Seattle into the next generation of tech startups that continue to make us a success,” Mattmiller said.