Another high-speed internet provider is coming to town.
Webpass, a San Francisco provider owned by Google Fiber, plans to install high-speed internet in a downtown Seattle condo complex, Fifteen Twenty-One Second Avenue. Residents of the 146-unit tower near Pike Place Market will have the option to buy Webpass internet, with up to gigabit symmetrical speeds for $60 per month.
“Launching a new city is always fun!” Webpass founder Charles Barr said. “I’m eager to demonstrate to the residents of Fifteen Twenty-One the value of a Webpass connection.”
GeekWire first discovered Webpass’ Seattle expansion through a job posting back in February. The Seattle expansion comes just a few months after the service announced plans to come to Denver, its first big move since being acquired by Google Fiber in June 2016.
Webpass is now in seven markets; here are the others: Boston, Chicago, Miami, San Diego and San Francisco/Oakland.
Unlike Google Fiber’s core offering, Webpass uses a network of antennas and ethernet to beam high-speed internet into multi-tenant homes, via a fixed antenna on top of a building. The company solves Google Fiber’s expensive last-mile delivery problem by eliminating the need to physically lay cables.
Webpass also taps into a market that Google Fiber has struggled to reach: apartment buildings. Webpass is available for buildings with 10 or more units and ethernet wiring. In dense urban areas such as Seattle, running cable to every building is expensive, making it a tough sell.
Webpass representatives said the company is adding other Seattle buildings and aims to have its service online in approximately 100 buildings within a year. Webpass has an online portal for people to request the service in their buildings and a one-page agreement to kick off the installation process.
Seattle has a difficult history with fiber internet service. In 2015, the City Council voted against a project that would lay down a government-owned fiber network in the city, expanding beyond existing “dark fiber” in the city. In 2016, Mayor Ed Murray said the city was considering a public-private partnership on fiber.
“I certainly welcome any new companies to the market because there’s not enough competition right now,” Devin Glaser, policy and political director of municipal-broadband advocacy group Upgrade Seattle told GeekWire in February. “I think we all know that we’re paying way too much for way too little, so bringing another company in could definitely help that.”
More gigabit services are starting to pop up in Seattle. Comcast last week announced the extension of its gigabit service to Seattle, as well as the cities of Burien, Kent, Renton, SeaTac, Tukwila, Vancouver, Vashon Island, with access coming to Bellevue and Tacoma later this year. Like Webpass, Comcast employs a different method than building out new infrastructure in expanding its high-speed connections: DOCSIS 3.1 technology that lets the company deliver gigabit internet over existing communication lines into homes.
According to the city of Seattle, more than 170,000 households in the city already had access to gigabit internet from CenturyLink and Wave Broadband, before Comcast’s rollout and Webpass’ Seattle expansion.
A quick comparison appears to indicate that Webpass will cost less than its competitors. Wave’s gigabit service is advertised at a cost of $80 per month, and CenturyLink offers its super-fast service for $79.95 per month as part of a package with Prism TV and $149.95 without a bundle or contract. Matching Webpass’ the price for residential gigabit service is Atlas Networks, a Seattle-based provider that is offering gigabit service for $60 a month.