Consolidated poses challenge to Google Fiber with 1-Gig residential offering in Kansas City

Consolidated Communications (CCI) has finally responded to Google Fiber's (NASDAQ: GOOG) fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) call in Kansas City, Mo., with its own 1 Gbps Internet package for residential customers.

Taking a page from the Google Fiber playbook, the new service will be offered to all of CCI's Kansas City FTTP customers for $69.95 a month. 

CCI's fiber Internet packages offer symmetrical services ranging from 18 Mbps to 1 Gbps.

The service provider said that it recently "upgraded most Kansas City area customers here to a minimum of 18 Mbps at no additional charge."

Providing a 1 Gbps connection isn't much of a stretch for Consolidated.

Everest Broadband, one of Consolidated's predecessor companies, had built out a FTTP network in 2007 that could support various applications, including home-based businesses, gaming and video streaming.

Bob Udell, CEO of Consolidated, told investors during the recent Wells Fargo Securities Technology, Media & Telecom conference that it had the right infrastructure in place to deliver a 1 Gbps service if customer demand was there and that plans for such a service were already in place. 

"We're ahead of the curve in terms of our ability to deploy 1 Gig," Udell said. "We didn't chase the marketing buzz because we didn't see the demand or the benefit."

Udell added that the "natural tendency was to jump on that bandwagon and because of the marketing buzz we're kind of forced into that discussion, but our average customer doesn't use that bandwidth."

Rob Koester, senior director of product management, said that because they already had a FTTP network in place, the effort to deliver a 1 Gbps service required minimal changes to its local network.

"We actually did not have to do a lot," Koester said. "I would love to say we went through a herculean effort, but once the glass was in the ground it's really just a matter of increasing the number of splitter cabinets."

Koester said that while the optical network ONTs had been 1 Gbps capable, the real challenge was with the customer premises equipment (CPE).

"We struggled a little bit with in home CPE," Koester said. "There are a number of vendors out there that claim 1 Gig, but only a handful that can pass that through so we were very diligent in the CPE selection process because as we look down the road to bring some of these services to other markets we want to standardize as much as possible."

While providing a higher speed 1 Gbps service is a compelling proposition, Consolidated wants to focus on providing a quality connection for each residential customer. Having a quality connection is necessary to accommodate the growing amount of devices that consumers are using in their home to access the Internet for basic e-mail, web surfing and viewing video content.

"For the evolution we're starting to see, consumers are becoming a lot more savvy about not only the size of the pipe, but also the quality of the connection," Koester said. "It's almost like a wine connoisseur where the quality of the connection is becoming just as important as or more important to the consumers than the size of the pipe."

Stopping short of specifying any specific expansion targets, Koester said that they will bring the 1 Gbps to other markets over time.

"Ultimately, this and other services are going to go out in other markets and the timing of that is to be determined," Koester said. "We just jumped to 100 Mbps in our fiber footprint and in our Kansas City footprint in particular."

Although Consolidated's residential FTTP footprint does overlap with 2,500 homes with Google, it did not reveal what areas would be the first to get the service.

For more:
- see the release

Editor's Corner: Google Fiber dips into Kansas City's business market, but expansion is not a slam dunk

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This article was updated on Nov. 19 with additional information from Consolidated Communications.