CenturyLink gets gigabit fever … in Omaha

CenturyLink, (s ctl) the nation’s third-largest telephone company, has decided to get join Google,(s GOOG) AT&T(s T) and several municipalities and get gigabit fever as well. The company will offer a fiber-to-the-home, gigabit network in Omaha, Neb. beginning next week, with service to reach all of the Omaha CenturyLink subscribers in October.

CenturyLink is upgrading its existing fiber architecture in west Omaha using GPON and will serve homes and businesses. Residential customers can bundle the gigabit speeds with existing video and voice service for $79.95 or subscribe to standalone service for $149.95. CenturyLink competes against Cox(s COX) Cable in Omaha, which offers a 150 Mbps service.

This is a pilot project for the telco, and will cover its 48,000 customers in Omaha. When I asked CenturyLink why it was upgrading to a gigabit, a spokeswoman emailed the following:

Better broadband = More innovation

As a broadband reporter with a passionate belief that more broadband is better for our society and our ability to innovate, I’m thrilled to see more and more companies testing the waters on speed upgrades.


When Google launched its roll-out plans to build out a gigabit network in Kansas City, it showed that it was willing to enter a capital-intensive business in order to protect its access to the consumer. At that time, ISPs were implementing caps and making a lot of noise about bandwidth hogs and the cost to upgrade networks for people watching video over the top.

Yet, after Google announced Austin, Texas in April as its second location for Google Fiber, AT&T issued a press release saying it too wanted to use Google’s tactics to lay fiber to the home in Austin. It remains to be seen if AT&T takes those steps, but it’s great to see AT&T considering it. A week after Austin, Google said it purchased the fiber network in Provo, Utah (it apparently cost Google $1) and planned to turn on a gigabit network later this year. In Kansas City, Google charges $70 for gigabit-only service and $120 for a gigabit plus TV.

Municipalities and smaller telcos are also getting in the game. Last Friday I covered Vermont’s telco, VTel, and its existing gigabit network that residents can connect to for $35 a month. In a talk with the CEO of VTel, he told me that the he thinks that gigabit fiber is the only way to bring residents and his business into the future. But his $151 million investment costs were offset by $94 million in government loans and grants.

Meanwhile, Century Link isn’t totally throwing its conservative talking points to the wind. In the release announcing the gigabit construction it added a note of caution:

The company will evaluate its Omaha 1 Gbps offer before determining further deployment of this advanced technology, considering such factors as positive community support, competitive parity in the marketplace and the ability to earn a reasonable return on its investment.

I’m curious about all of those things myself. If a traditional telco can invest in gigabit networks and charge a fair rate for them, then I’ll expect to see them pop up in more places. And not just in places targeted by Google.