Two companies could bring fiber Internet to Louisville homes - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Two companies could bring fiber Internet to Louisville homes

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An Internet connection installed last year for WDRB An Internet connection installed last year for WDRB
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A British company is considering building a fiber-optic network that would provide super-fast Internet connections throughout the old City of Louisville, according to a proposed franchise agreement on file with the Metro Council.

The proposal from London-based SiFi Networks is one of three new franchises recommended by Mayor Greg Fischer’s administration. The franchises would allow companies to lay and string wires along public rights of way for Internet access.

It’s the next step in Louisville Metro’s quest to get the same kind of high-speed residential Internet connections that Google is bringing to a select group of cities such as Nashville and Kansas City.

Earlier: Sunday Edition | Pipe dream? A closer look at Louisville’s push for fiber Internet

Another proposed franchisee, a subsidiary of Louisville-based BluegrassNet, could also bring fiber connections to Louisville homes, but on a much smaller scale than what SiFi Networks envisions.

BluegrassNet CEO Norman Schippert said the company plans to wire up three Louisville neighborhoods – he declined to say which ones – to see if residents would pay $50 to $70 a month for what he said would be a faster and more reliable connection than is available from current providers like Time Warner Cable and AT&T.

“We are going to see where it goes; we’re going to try it,” Schippert said Tuesday.

SiFi’s network will “initially pass each and every premise within the Urban Service District” – the old City of Louisville, according to its proposal with Metro government.

However, SiFi will not deal with individual customers. Instead, it will lease the network to third-party Internet service providers that will sell access – presumably on a monthly basis – to homes and businesses, according to its proposal.

Ted Smith, chief of the Louisville Metro Economic Growth & Innovation, said the potential franchises for SiFi Networks and BluegrassNet represent “progress” in the city’s efforts to get fiber connections.

“We have at least two different flavors of opportunity here,” Smith said.

No tax dollars will go toward building the networks. They will be entirely funded by the companies.

SiFi’s proposal does not say how much a connection would cost or how soon they might available.

Scott Bradshaw, the SiFi official who has been dealing with Louisville, did not return a call Tuesday.

In the most optimistic scenario, the network could be activated in the first neighborhoods in about a year, Smith said.

Network providers like SiFi have indicated that Google’s price of about $70 a month for a gigabit connection makes for a viable return on investment, Smith said.

In Louisville, Time Warner Cable charges about that much – a $65 per month introductory rate – for a cable Internet connection that is about 20 times slower in download speeds and 200 times slower in upload speeds.

Schippert said the connections his company plans would be about 100 megabits a second – still twice as fast as the highest-tier Time Warner Cable connection but only a tenth of a gigabit connection. He said 100 mbps is plenty of speed for most residential users.

Unlike Google Fiber, the networks that SiFi and BluegrassNet propose would not carry traditional television channels, which are governed by a separate type of franchise, Smith said. Subscribers would be limited to Internet-based video services like Netflix and Hulu Plus, he said.

More television is becoming available online, but popular channels like HBO and ESPN generally require users to have a pay-TV subscription though a cable or satellite company to access their shows or live games through their online apps.

Smith’s department is recommending a third new franchise for a company called Fibertech Networks, based in Rochester, N.Y.

Fibertech’s customers would be business and institutional – not residential, according to its franchise application.

Copyright 2014 WDRB News. All rights reserved.
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