MidCo Guns For 1-Gig

Midcontinent Communications is tossing its hat into the 1-Gig ring.

The MSO on Monday introduced the “Gigabit Frontier Initiative,” a plan that aims to bring gigabit speeds to about 600,000 homes and 55,000 businesses across its footprint South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota, fed by a fiber network that extends more than 7,600 miles, over the next three years. 

MidCo said communities will launch 1-Gig as they are upgraded. The MSO has set up a Web site where customers can check to view availability in their areas. With work slated to get underway in 2015, MidCo said the first areas expected to get gigabit service are Fargo, Bismarck and Grand Forks, N.D.; as well as Sioux Falls and Rapid City, S.D. 

MidCo’s current high-end residential broadband tier, MidcoNet Xtstream Wideband 3.0, tops out at 200 Mbps downstream by 20 Mbps upstream for about $106 per month. The operator said it will announce pricing for gigabit services when they become available.

The operator noted that bandwidth usage among its high-speed Internet subs increased 77% in the last year, and has seen consumption double every 15 months.

“It’s interesting to sit here and say, ‘Wow, I’ve got enough to get by right now.' But in five years you’re going to change your mind,” MidCo VP of technology Jon Pederson said in this video about the initiative. 

“As the gold standard, gigabit Internet delivers a speed that the vast majority of Americans can only dream of accessing,” said Pat McAdaragh, president and CEO of Midcontinent Communications, in a statement. “Midcontinent will make world-class, gigabit Internet access available to most of our customers by the end of 2017, and we’re not limiting it to a few neighborhoods in the largest cities.”

In was not immediately clear if the tech plan calls for MidCo to deliver gigabit speeds with all-fiber networks or if it also intends to use DOCSIS 3.1 technology when it becomes available.

MidCo, whose project is getting underway as President Obama asks the FCC to reclassify broadband as a Title II service, joins a growing group of cable operators that have also introduced gigabit initiatives. For example, Cox Communications has plans in motion to begin market-wide deployment of gigabit speeds by the end of 2016, starting in Phoenix, where it’s marketing the service under the “G!GABLAST” brand. Suddenlink Communications’ “Operation Gigaspeed” project is targeting top speeds of 1-Gig in 90% of its footprint by 2017.