Raleigh suburbs gain fiber service — and it’s not Google

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While there’s a substantial outcry for better, faster broadband service across North Carolina, a small Canadian-based public company is making it happen in parts of Wake County. Ting Internet has started putting fiber internet service in Rolesville continuing an expansion in suburban Raleigh markets that it kicked off in 2017.

Ting is a division of Toronto-based Tucows, which has a market cap of about $817 million. It entered the state by starting service in Holly Springs in 2017 and has since also laid fiber in Fuquay-Varina and Wake Forest. As of March 31, Ting had about 17,260 subscribers in its N.C., Virginia, Colorado and California markets, versus 11,600 a year earlier, a company filing shows. North Carolina is among Ting’s most successful markets, Regional Manager Todd Rubin says.

Fiber networks carry higher bandwidth and are less prone to signal interference than traditional coaxial cable provided by Spectrum and other traditional cable companies. Ting doesn’t “overbuild” other fiber networks such as the one operated in Holly Springs by AT&T, but it installed a network in other parts of the fast-growing Wake County town, Rubin says.

It costs $1,000 to $1,500 per serviceable address, while a fiber network operator earns gets an annual gross margin of about $1,000 per subscriber, according to a  Tucows report issued in May.  About 50% of potential customers buy the service within five years, it says.

Search engine giant Google has installed fiber networks in parts of Charlotte and Raleigh, but has slowed expansion plans after experiencing higher than expected costs and extensive hassles. A 2017 study by the U.S. Department of Transportation put the average cost of laying fiber in existing neighborhoods at as much as $27,000 a mile. That price has almost certainly increased since then.

Ting is focusing on growing suburban areas and typically connecting with developers of new residential subdivisions to install lines before homes are built. “We do go into existing neighborhoods, but it is cheaper to go in ahead of time before you have to start dealing with residents,” Rubin says.

Getting involved in community activities such as festivals and Habitat for Humanity home building and providing free interent service in downtown Holly Springs are other ways of building Ting’s credibility, he adds.

Ting’s pricing starts at $89 a month for residential customers and $139 for businesses, which Rubin says is in line with cable providers but “not the cheapest option out there.” The company doesn’t require contracts or cancellation fees.

Rubin wouldn’t say where else Ting expects to expand in North Carolina. But the company is considering taking part in government-backed projects to provide fiber in underserved areas. It has such a program underway in Charlottesville, Va., market.

 

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