CEDAR RAPIDS — ImOn Communications has begun offering 1 gigabit download speeds — some of the fastest Internet speeds available — to customers in Marion and Hiawatha, the company said Wednesday.
Patrice Carroll, ImOn President and CEO, said the new service took years of installing fiber-optics cable access to houses in those communities.
“It has been a natural evolution for us for about the last three years, since we made the decision to have all future builds in fiber-to-the-home technology,” Carroll said. “We’re positioning an opportunity and a service to meet those demands of the future.”
Dave Daack, community technology adviser for Connect Iowa, a not-for-profit that works with the Iowa Economic Development Authority to help companies and municipalities increase statewide broadband availability, said there are many Internet providers in the state with the capabilities of providing up to 1 gigabit speeds. But to have it available directly to the home is less common, he noted.
“There are multiple providers in the state and multiple communities who have gig service,” he said. “Whether or not they’re providing it to every single resident is another story.”
The difference is the infrastructure. Companies that use a coaxial infrastructure can provide speeds up to 1 gigabit. But getting that service might require the installation of fiber optics, Daack said.
David Slinker, market development manager with CenturyLink, which offers up to 100 megabyte (MB) in the Cedar Rapids area and gigabits in some other markets, said most consumers will notice bandwidth rather than the speed.
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“Where the gigabit comes into play is in horsepower that supports multiple devices that pulls bandwidth through,” Slinker said. “As you add more and more to it, though, each device is going to be pulling a segment of that bandwidth through.”
The practicality of 1 gigabit to the home comes down to the consumer’s usage. But in a world where both businesses and families want more broadband to keep up with their growing number of mobile devices, the demand is for more bandwidth.
“There’s that overall view, from a futuristic standpoint, that there’s really no such thing as a too much broadband,” Daack said. “Right now from a market standpoint, what are the customers willing to pay? That’s the thing.”
For ImOn’s new fiber-to-the-home service, customers will pay $150 a month for 1 gigabit speeds, $100 a month for 500Mb speeds or $65 a month for 150Mb.
By November, residents in limited areas of Cedar Rapids also will have access to the fiber-to-the-home residential service, said Carroll of ImOn, whose investors include The Gazette Company,
Phyllis Peters, Mediacom’s communications director, said Mediacom offers up to 10 gigabits to Iowa customers, but those include schools, hospitals or companies.
A cluster or Mediacom residential customers around the Cedar Rapids area — including in Marion and Hiawatha — can get up to 300Mb speeds, but Peters said she hasn’t received a lot of demand for faster speeds.
“We’re not hearing that. We don’t even have that many people that want 150Mb or 300Mb,” she said.
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That said, Peters noted that a collaboration of organizations, which includes Mediacom, are developing new technology and interface components — dubbed gigasphere — to bring residential speeds up to the 1 gigabit level as soon as next year.
“We’re in the speed game, too, and we have plans for big improvements in 2016,” she said.
Earlier this month, officials with ImOn began conducting field engineering and surveys of utility easements in Iowa City neighborhoods. In March, officials with Indiana’s Metronet conducted similar neighborhood assessments.
The surveys are meant to determine the feasibility of expanding services, and how extensively, into the Iowa City market.