Looking for a good deal on Internet service? You may want to move to Salisbury, N.C.
The city of about 34,000 residents last week put the finishing touches on its newest broadband service, one that's 10 times faster than Google Fiber. Sure, it's vastly more expensive, but compared with what else is out there at the same price point — including the best offerings from Comcast, Verizon and the like — Salisbury is perhaps the only place in the country that offers as much bang for your Internet buck.
Now, city officials say they're ready for prime time.
"We can reach anyone in the city with 10-gig fibe, right now," said Kent Winrich, head of Salisbury's publicly owned Internet utility, Fibrant.
Fibrant is charging home Internet users a pretty penny — $400 a month for its 10 Gbps plan. Still, consider that for about the same price ($300 a month), Comcast's speeds top out at only 2 Gbps — that's five times slower than Salisbury's peak speeds. Just a year ago, Comcast was charging $400 for speeds of 505 megabits per second, about 20 times slower than Fibrant's comparably priced 10-gig service. So what Fibrant is selling is both faster and more economical — kind of like buying cashews in bulk from Costco or Wal-Mart instead of at your local grocery.
Of course, just because you can get a 10 Gbps connection doesn't mean you need it. Robert Van Geons, the economic development director for Salisbury and surrounding Rowan County, said the biggest beneficiaries of the 10-gig service will be businesses and entrepreneurs, particularly start-up founders who want to run demand models. The network has enough capacity to spool up large simulated traffic loads while leaving regular Internet users unaffected.
"Most individual users aren't going to use 10 gigs at a constant," said Van Geons, "but the ability to burst or test or emulate what you might see as an entrepreneur — what would your infrastructure have to be like if you had, instead of 100 users, 100,000 people?"
The local private university, Catawba College, has signed up for the 10 Gbps service.
We've written before about the race to 10 Gbps. Verizon recently tested new fiber-optic technology that will someday allow its network to achieve those speeds. Comcast is also rolling out hardware upgrades to enable cable subscribers to hit 10 gigs, too. That transition should be finished in the next two to three years. But Salisbury may be the first to actually market what the big providers are still preparing.