On Tuesday, Ting Mobile — a small, Canadian-owned wireless carrier based in Mississippi — said it was buying up an Internet service provider in Charlottesville, Va., home to the University of Virginia. The acquisition of Blue Ridge InternetWorks will kickstart new investments by Ting into the town's local fiber optic network, enabling new fixed broadband plans costing less than $100 a month for speeds roughly 100 times the current national average, or 1 gigabit per second.
"Think about it at its simplest," said Ting CEO Elliot Noss. "I'm really just looking for an easy label to ground it for people — it's Google Fiber lite."
Although Google Fiber is rolling out to hundreds of thousands if not millions of people around the country, Ting's entry into wired Internet is relatively small. The company expects to hook up around 12,000 homes beginning in the first quarter of next year. Still, the plan to expand Charlottesville's existing 35 miles of fiber cabling reflects the growing interest in high-speed fiber nationwide that doesn't necessarily come from established communications companies like Verizon.
In recent months, a slew of cities and towns have voted to approve their own publicly funded fiber optic networks. Other places have actively courted private companies to build those networks for them. And, of course, there's Google's famous program, which just last month started taking signups in Austin.
There's so much untapped demand for fiber, it isn't likely that companies like Google and Ting will start competing head-to-head. But, said Noss, expect Ting to expand to other cities soon.
"We've settled on this as the right first deal," he said. "Some of the other stuff we're looking at in the nearer term is less in the way of acquisition and more in the way of public private partnership."