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New player to roll out CT broadband service

BY Matt Pilon

4/30/2018
Photo | Contributed
Photo | Contributed
A GoNetspeed crew working in Pennsylvania, where the company launched its first broadband service offerings. Connecticut is its second target.
A New York company founded by veterans of the former Lightower Fiber Networks says it's preparing to make a broadband play in select areas of Connecticut, including Hartford.

GoNetspeed plans to start rolling out fiber broadband in June, with service tiers ranging from 100 megabits-per-second up to 1,000 Mbps — often referred to as gigabit-speed internet.

It is targeting residents and small businesses in a western portion of Hartford and West Hartford, said Tom Perrone, GoNetspeed's chief operating officer.

Like many service providers that keep the exact breadth of their networks veiled for competitive reasons, GoNetspeed isn't disclosing the exact neighborhoods where it plans to install service. It also plans to launch in parts of New Haven and Bridgeport.

Perrone said GoNetspeed's goal is to eventually offer service statewide. It aims to expand its offerings in cities or towns where it can get 10 percent of households to sign up. The company has already launched service in the Pittsburgh area.

GoNetspeed Founder and Chairman Frank Chiaino previously founded Rochester-based Fibertech Networks, which was later acquired by Massachusetts-based Lightower Networks. Lightower, which has built out a sizable fiber network in Connecticut over the years, was acquired last year by Crown Castle in Texas for $7.1 billion. Perrone also previously worked for Fibertech.

Perrone said GoNetspeed, which is based in Rochester, New York, will build its own fiber infrastructure, mainly strung up on telephone poles, and also lease some of Crown Castle's Connecticut fiber, though he wouldn't disclose further details about the arrangement.

To find out if GoNetspeed service will be available in your area, visit www.gonetspeed.com and punch in your address and email address.

GoNetspeed has big ambitions, but it's a small upstart, with about 25 employees.

Depending on its success in Connecticut, it hopes to add as many as 15 workers in the state.

Meanwhile, it's entering a market dominated by major service providers like Comcast, AT&T, Frontier and others. "This is a company starting from scratch playing against the big guys," Perrone said.

Comcast recently announced it's launching a new gigabit-speed internet service for residential and business customers in Connecticut.

The Office of Consumer Counsel's Elin Katz said it's tough to determine exactly how available affordable gigabit internet service is for residents in particular, but she believes it's still rare.

Katz said she's pleased to see a competitor entering the market and investing in a gigabit-speed offering.

"I think it's being driven by demand," Katz said.

Katz has pushed for municipal-level gigabit plans and her office issued several reports a few years ago with anecdotes of how expensive gigabit speeds were for certain businesses and others. Her office's work has drawn the ire of internet providers, which have argued that government does not belong in the broadband business.

Paul Cianelli, CEO of the New England Cable & Telecommunications Association, predicted that advancing technology is going to make gigabit speeds available to many more households in the coming years.

"Our residential rollout is just beginning," Cianelli said. "I think competition is good for consumers, good for the companies, it keeps everyone on their toes."

GoNetspeed aims to build a customer base with its pricing structure and what Perrone said is the value of the offering. For residential customers, the 100 Mbps service will cost $50 a month; the 500 Mbps service will cost $70; and the gigabit service would cost $90. There won't be additional charges from taxes or fees, though their will be an installation fee.

In addition, GoNetspeed says it will offer a lifetime pricing guarantee to customers who buy and keep the service. The service will also be "symmetrical," meaning the upload and download speeds will be equivalent. In many types of internet service, the upload speeds are often significantly slower than the download speeds.

Perrone said faster upload speeds are better for households with multiple internet-connected devices as well as online gamers.

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly stated that Frank Chiaino founded Lightower Fiber Networks. Chiaino founded Fibertech Networks, which was later acquired by Lightower.