Get in line: Ting’s network expansion slower than expected

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Ting employees have been installing lightning-fast internet service in Charlottesville since June 2015, but about half of the city is still awaiting service. File photo Ting employees have been installing lightning-fast internet service in Charlottesville since June 2015, but about half of the city is still awaiting service. File photo

When the folks at a “lightning-fast” fiber gigabit internet company decided to roll out their service in Charlottesville, they knew it would be popular—but now it’s in such high demand that there are hundreds of city residents waiting for access to its network.

Ting has been in town for more than three years, and is currently accessible to more than half of Charlottesville, says Elliot Noss, the company’s Toronto-based CEO. And while it has a footprint in about 80 percent of the local area, Noss says a waitlist is “certainly north of 1,000” people.

And here’s why: When Ting acquired a majority stake in Blue Ridge InternetWorks in 2014, Noss says it bought a preexisting network that wasn’t built to service the whole city.

“There’s no criticism in that,” he says. “We all knew what we were signing up for.”

While BRI’s existing backbone has plenty of fiber capacity, he says it lacks electronic capacity. In other words, says Noss, “Some portions of the network need and needed to be improved. We probably thought we had a little more coverage than we did.”

Though they may have had a slower start than they anticipated, the folks at Ting are still stringing internet cables up on poles and running fiber-optic cables to subscriber’s homes in town. They expect to be able to service 70 percent of the city by the end of the year, with an additional 15 percent by the end of 2019.

“More people have access every week,” promises Noss, who adds that he reads Charlottesville’s subreddit on discussion website Reddit, and he’ll often see someone say they’re moving to town and looking for recommendations for the best internet service provider. He says city residents are quick to suggest Ting, but add that it likely won’t be available.

“That breaks our heart,” says Noss. “We are certainly doing the work as fast as we can.”

For folks eager to try the gigabit service that starts at $89 per month, Noss suggests paying the refundable $9 to join the waitlist. “It’s like a vote for where we build next,” he says.

Redfields resident Michael Smith says he waited 13 months for Ting.

“Initial expectation from conversations with Ting personnel was the August/September of 2017 timeframe, but obviously that didn’t happen,” he says, adding that he was finally provided a “temporary connection” to the service in mid-February, before his permanent connection was completed two months later.

For Smith, a self-employed computer consultant who primarily works from home (and who was also a former BRI employee from 2002 to 2007), switching to Ting from Comcast was about speed and reliability.

“Ting is a lot faster for less money,” he says. And though he still has CenturyLink as a backup, “given the reliability of Ting so far,” he plans to cancel the second service this fall.

Smith says Ting is worth the wait: “I’m happy with the switch to Ting. I wish it hadn’t taken so long.”

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