GCI president and CEO Ron Duncan faced reporters at the company’s training center Thursday morning to announce its “Fiber reD” [ fiber red] plan.
“We’re always focused on what to build next, and today, that’s one gigabit service for Anchorage consumers. Well, for the geeks in the room, it’s a thousand megabits of download speed. “
In expanding GCI’s fiber footprint, as Duncan calls it, the company will provide one thousand megabits -per-second Internet service. He says that’s one hundred times faster than the current national average, and about 20 times faster than was GCI’s top speed only yesterday. Why is faster better?
“You save a lot of time, for starters. You get your HD movie downloaded in 18 seconds in stead of 30 minutes. Doesn’t even leave you time to make the popcorn. You can download a console game in 33 seconds, rather than 55 minutes. “
Fast movie and games download speeds are no doubt attractive to consumers, but the eventual uses of ultrahigh speed service could bring benefits to home health care and education services, as well as to small businesses, he said.
Duncan stood in front of a panel covered with GCI’s familiar red logo as flashbulbs popped. And he then played a video pitch for customers of GCI’s current re:d [red] premiere internet plan
Those residential and commercial customers already on GCI’s “re:D” plan got their internet service speed doubled Thursday to 100 megabits at no higher cost to themselves, while those with plans that offer slower speeds are under no obligation to sign up for the higher speed service.
Duncan said the one gigabit service will be confined to Anchorage initially, but in three or four years, it could expand to the state’s other cities. He says it is not foreseeable at this time to provide one gigabit service to rural communities.
Duncan refers to the new plan as a “product”.. GCI will push fiber capability closer to residential customers, connecting it at the point where the fiber terminates and joins a coax cable, called a node
” And the bandwith you need in a node depends on how many homes are connected back to the fiber serving that node and how much demand each of those homes is providing. So the way that we will provide this service is by driving the size of the nodes down.. the number of homes per node.. by pushing fiber out closer to individual homes. “
Demand for the high speed service will be consumer driven, Duncan says.
“How people respond probably has an awful lot to do with how fast it goes to other communities. If there is an overwhelming response, its a very popular product, people find lots of uses for it, then we are highly motivated to get quickly into the other road system communities. “
He says the fiber plan will be paid for with private funds at an estimated cost of the one hundred million dollars it will take over the next few years to deploy it throughout Anchorage.
Duncan says the one gigabit plan fits with the FCC’s vision that a vigorous Internet backbone stimulates commerce by enabling new technologies. In 1999, GCI did not realize that fifty percent of the bits flowing through its network would eventually be used to stream movies. Now instant, on demand use has driven the expansion of high speed service.
Right now, only about a dozen cities in the US have residential one gig internet service.