Lightning fast: Ting’s grand plans to expand

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

Just five months after Ting launched its high-speed Internet network in Charlottesville, the company has given almost half the city access to the gigabit.

Ting describes the gigabit as “lightning fast” (gigabit refers to a speed of one gigabit per second, and one gigabit equals 1,000 megabits), and its network requires not just stringing cables up on poles, but also running a fiber-optic cable to a subscriber’s house.

“We’re very pleased with the subscribers that we’ve received so far based on our coverage,” says Baylor Fooks, a general manager at Ting and cofounder of Blue Ridge InternetWorks—the company that took the initiative to expand a fiber optic cable network in Charlottesville. (He declined to release the total number of subscribers.) Thus far, Ting has targeted downtown and several neighborhoods including Belmont, Martha Jefferson, Jefferson Park Avenue and Rugby Road, according to Fooks. And the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, he says.

Grit Cafe, a food and coffee shop with several locations including one on the Downtown Mall, has used Ting for about two months and advertises it on the sandwich board outside its door.

“Internet access is obviously a huge part of our offering,” says owner Brad Uhl, adding that some customers use the cafe as a secondary office location. Grit employee Anthony Fitzgerald says that while he’s on the job, customers often praise the service and say it’s faster than theirs at home.

With plans to expand the Internet service to more homes in the city by the beginning of 2016 and into Albemarle County shortly thereafter, Ting is also touting a new service.

Ting CEO Elliot Noss recently announced the company will offer cable streaming next year.

“Your Internet access is something you don’t want to think about,” Fooks says, “but your TV experience is quite the opposite.” According to Fooks, Ting’s cable streaming service will be an app format that allows users to select the content they want for their device, similar to Roku, Chromecast and Apple TV.

Though prices for cable streaming aren’t available yet, the gigabit Internet service is $89 per month (along with a $399 installation fee). And though that may seem expensive, Fooks says that just two years ago, the average price for gigabit service would have been between $5,000 and $10,000 per month. Ting supports straightforward pricing without bundling, and doesn’t apply early termination fees, he says.

For people who only use the Internet for basic tasks such as checking e-mail and social media accounts, Ting offers a five-megabit plan for less than $20 a month. Competitor CenturyLink, which has the largest local coverage area, has a three-megabit plan for the same price, but without the fiber optic cable. CenturyLink also offers a 25-megabit plan for $34.95, which the company says is quick enough to support downloading high-definition movies, streaming videos and playing games at high speeds.

CenturyLink user Mark Moss says because there are few Internet and cable options in Charlottesville, with the major players being his provider and Comcast, he was interested in Ting when it launched. His current Internet provider, he says, “does a pretty good job of basic streaming, but the upload is very slow.”

“‘Fast enough’ may work most of the time,” Fooks says, “but we are providing a service that will work with multiple video streams, voice, gaming and anything else you want to throw at it.” He calls it a “vastly superior” experience, and says Ting aims to keep its business model simple by only offering two plans.

Moss, who lives on an extension of Marshall Street where utilities are buried underground, is concerned about whether Ting would be an option at this location. According to Fooks, in this case, the company would also install its fiber optic cables underground. Where Internet is already available, Fooks says it can be installed almost immediately after sign-up in a process that takes about three hours. “When you start drilling holes in someone’s house, you have to take a lot of care,” he says.