Small Market ISPs Get in the Gig Game


In June 2010, about 10 percent of Americans had access to broadband speeds somewhere between 100 Mbps and 1 Gbps. By the end of 2013, it was over 60 percent. As a beneficiary of this newly available speed (I use 105 Mbps at home) I can report that I’ve yet to find the limit of what it’s capable of. I routinely stream movies on multiple devices during peak hours while simultaneously downloading content on another computer without any noticeable disruption in quality or speed.

While 105 Mbps is more than enough speed for me now, I can certainly imagine how more Internet-connected devices and the continued evolution of online entertainment may drive demand for faster speeds.

Knowing this, Suddenlink Communications announced a program that will boost Internet speeds, delivering 1 gigabit per second service to virtually all its customers. At a cost of almost a quarter-billion dollars, this upgrade is a vote of confidence in both Moore’s Law and the reality that consumers will always want newer, faster technology. Suddenlink Chairman and CEO Jerry Kent said he expects nearly half of the planned 1 Gigabit launches to be completed next year and most of the remainder the following year.

Suddenlink isn’t the only ISP banking on a future of super speeds to the home. Cox Communications is planning on rolling out gigabit Internet speeds to many of its markets across the country. Bright House Networks is currently working with several communities in Florida to build all fiber gigabit networks. And GCI is bringing gigabit broadband all the way to Anchorage, Alaska. 4k video is coming. The Internet of Things is upon us. Yet-unimagined sources of data and tools to consume content are on the horizon. Smart ISPs like these know that the only way to keep up is to never assume enough is enough and to keep pushing what’s possible over their networks.

Google offers its gigabit services to a few select cities. It doesn’t appear to have plans for nationwide distribution and at an estimated cost of $140 billion to do so, it doesn’t seem likely it ever will. But with 17 years of experience and a foundation of infrastructure already in place, cable is poised to be the most widely accessible gigabit connection in America. This is because on top of these small and mid-sized markets, the industry is moving closer to deployment of ultra-fast GigaSphere technology that will enable larger market scalability and can reach up to 10 gigabits per second.

If the growth rate for speeds between 100 Mbps and 1 Gbps serves as any indication, we’re positioned to be a nation of gigabit connections sooner than we think.