A year after launch, gigabit Internet brings Omaha customers up to speed

After a test launch in July 2013 by CenturyLink and an official launch shortly thereafter, Internet speeds of 1-gigabit per second have officially been powering startups, businesses and homes in Omaha for more than a year.

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 10.29.34 AM

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 10.29.34 AM

centurylinkOmaha residents and businesses have been using the power of gigabit Internet for more than a year this month.

CenturyLink launched the service last October after smaller test markets in the city.

As fiber service continue to grow, Omaha customers are among the first to discover what having an internet speed more than 100 times faster than basic broadband speeds means in terms of productivity, business and home entertainment.

While fiber optic networks have been around for a few years, Google’s 2011 contest to decide which U.S. city would be the first to receive its Fiber service—the honor went to Kansas—brought much attention to the single gigabit.

Greg RomenthalBut a gig Internet service is a no-brainer for any business, says Greg Rothermel (right), Development Director for NuStyle Development, a property development firm in Omaha.

NuStyle was the first business to sign up for CenturyLink’s 1-gig service in order to serve the Highline, one of its downtown apartment buildings.

“Any field, as far as I’m concerned right now, needs higher speed Internet, whether it’s a photographer, an architect or a rental company,” he said.”I mean everyone kind of needs to be able to move data back and forth pretty quick these days.”

Michael Hennings, a senior account executive with Omaha Video Solutions, agrees. Having a 1-gig service drastically cuts down on the amount of time each step in the video editing process takes, he says.

Videos that used to take 15 minutes to upload can now be done in under a minute.

“Being able to watch high-definition video and have it load right away and being able to send large files over the internet, quickly, is a huge infrastructure improvement,” says Hennings.

Omaha Video Solutions, along with many other offices in the Mastercraft offices, receives a 1-gig Internet service through a partnership with CenturyLink. CenturyLink will also power the proposed Technology Village in the former Crossroads Mall, albeit with a larger, 10-gigabit Internet.

Danny PateScreen Shot 2014-10-08 at 10.47.52 AM, CenturyLink’s VP and general manager for Nebraska, says working with startups not only allows CenturyLink to test their services with enthusiastic customers, but also raises the tech profile in Omaha, which in turn will hopefully attract more startups to Omaha.

“It really fits in our wheelhouse relative to entrepreneurs and really integrating technology to help this retail segment, and to bring new businesses who are looking for that kind of technology in Omaha,” says Pate.

But as with any new technology, having a 1-gig Internet service doesn’t come without growing pains. While companies with the connection are able to reap the benefits with their own files, the reality is that they are stuck waiting for the rest of the Internet to catch up to speed.

Omaha Video Solutions can send short video drafts to clients more quickly, but the startup still has to send a hard drive of finished videos to clients, because of the unreliability of its clients’ Internet connection, Henning says.

Omaha Video Solutions also has an office in Denver, but because there is no 1-gig service available in Denver right now, there is a significant amount of lag time when sending files back and forth between the two offices.

Residential users enjoy video

But the service is getting use at home, too.

CenturyLink started a residential gig program in west Omaha a few years ago as a test market before rolling it out to more parts of the city.

DJ Jennings was an early residential user of CenturyLink’s fiber service, and also found that having a 1-gigabit connection doesn’t always mean having a 1-gigabit speed.

Jennings will download videos from online gaming platform Steam that will max out with a download speed of 5 to 10 megabits, while videos from rival site Blizzard can have a maximum speed of 50 to 75 megabits.

As Jennings says, “it’s entirely dependent on where you get your file from.” Sites that have a slower download speed than others will still result in slower download speeds.

Jennings jumped at the idea of a 1-gig internet service when he first heard of the CenturyLink launch last May. The pricing starts around $150 a month, according to the website, for just the gig internet service but can be bundled with other services for a discount. Jennings said in YouTube comments he paid around $80 for the service.

But the first month of his 1-gig service was plagued with technical issues, from miscommunication with CenturyLink representatives about when the 1-gig service would actually be available, to a broken fiber optic cable caused by the crew that came to bury it.

Jennings says he also has to reset his modem approximately once every two months. Nonetheless, he’s sticking with the 1-gig service and with CenturyLink for now, mainly because of the exciting possibilities a 1-gig connection brings.

“It’s like making the leap from dial-up to broadband, and you notice right away, ‘this is so much faster,’” says Jennings. “And now I’m using a fiber, and I’m like ‘this is even better.’”

Real key comes when whole country has a gig

Despite some hiccups, Pate says that CenturyLink has been pleased with the reception its 1-gig service has received in Omaha.

It’s hard to say how many businesses and residential customers have the gig service as CenturyLink doesn’t disclose the number. The company announced in August that they plan to expand their 1-gigabit connection to 16 different cities.

Meanwhile, rival Cox announced in May that they plan to bring a 1-gig speed to Omaha, in addition to Phoenix and Las Vegas. That service may arrive in 2016, according to news reports.

For companies like Omaha Video Solutions, now the wait comes for the day when a 1-gig connection is available all over the United States.

If a 1-gig connection were more widely available, it could change the way the video industry does business, Hennings says, and Omaha Video Solutions might not have to rely on the old-fashioned way of sending clunky hard drives of videos through the mail.

“I think that this type of internet, it’s silly that it’s not common,” says Hennings. “If it was common, it would further change the way we interact on the web.”

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