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CenturyLink1GigCenturyLink’s 1 gigabit Internet service now reaches 100,000 households in Seattle, up from 60,000 it boasted previously. The company said in May it hoped to hit the milestone by the end of 2015.

The announcement today comes at a time of increasing tension between city officials, Internet providers and interest groups who say Seattle needs to do something to create more options for affordable high-speed Internet.

Meanwhile, existing providers like Comcast, Wave Broadband and CenturyLink are hurrying to beef up their networks and prove they’re capable of meeting the city’s broadband needs on their own.

A manhole cover in Seattle’s University District marks one of the access points for the Seattle's existing fiber-optic network.
A manhole cover in Seattle’s University District marks one of the access points for the Seattle’s existing fiber-optic network.

The city has looked into the possibility of building its own fiber network, a move that would create a government-run utility to compete with existing providers. But officials said last month that plan would be too costly and risky to do without federal grants or other forms of financing.

Instead, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has taken steps to increase competition — and in theory drive down prices — by lowering regulatory hurdles to allow more providers to reach more of the city’s neighborhoods.

“With this expansion we are reaching new households – providing choice to more Seattle residents,” Sue Anderson, CenturyLink vice president of operations for Washington state, said in a Thursday press release.

The neighborhoods with access to CenturyLink’s fiber network are Ballard, Beacon Hill, Brighton, Capitol Hill, Central District, Columbia City, Green Lake, Greenwood, Delridge, Fauntleroy, International District, Lake City, Leschi, Maple Leaf, Montlake, Mt. Baker, Rainier Valley, Ravenna, Rainier Beach, University District, Wedgwood and West Seattle.

CenturyLink advertises gigabit Internet service at a promotional rate of $79.95/month in Seattle. However, that rate requires a multi-year contract that bundles broadband service with a monthly phone plan, in addition to other fees that bring the total cost of the package to nearly $130/month.

My apartment on Capitol Hill was one of the first in the neighborhood to get hooked up. Soon after, CenturyLink offered everyone in the building a chance to test the service for free so they could make sure everything was running smoothly. And I must say, gigabit service is exactly what you would expect: insanely fast Internet.

To be honest, it’s faster than I actually need — and I would venture to say that would be the case for most casual users. In my apartment, my connection speeds aren’t limited by the service but instead however fast my devices are able to go. I have yet to hit that elusive 1 gigabit per second download, simply because I don’t have the equipment to back up the connection being pumped into my living room.

It hasn’t drastically changed my Internet experience so far, but I imagine that might change as devices keep becoming more sophisticated and apps keeps requiring faster and faster speeds.

[Editor’s Note: CenturyLink, Frontier Communications, and Wave Broadband are GeekWire annual sponsors; Comcast is a GeekWire advertiser.]

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