Many Americans' home internet connections are woefully slow and painfully expensive compared to what's on offer in other developed nations. But Verizon and AT&T are working to fix at least the first problem, with new initiatives announced on Monday to boost connection speeds in urban and rural areas across the country.
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Customers of Verizon's Fios fiber-to-the-home service will now be able to surf the web at nearly gigabit speeds: downloads as fast as 940Mbps and uploads as fast as 880Mbps.
The speed boost won't be noticeable to every Fios customer, however, since some were already experiencing results close to those numbers, despite Verizon's former promise of 750Mpbs uploads and downloads. Verzion's confidence in advertising gigabit speeds is based on the addition of new firmware and diagnostic tools to its network, the company said.
The new gigabit offering is only available in parts of New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Richmond, Va., Hampton Roads, Va., Boston, Providence, and Washington, D.C., however. In total, 8 million households are eligible for the speed increase. They'll have to spend $69.99 per month to get it, a big increase over Verizon's $39.99 base speed tier, which currently guarantees 50Mbps.
Some customers who previously subscribed to the fastest Fios tier, called Instant Internet, will automatically receive Fios Gigabit Connection and will see their bills lowered, Verizon said. Meanwhile, Fios gigabit triple-play bundles, which include TV and phone service, start at $79.99.
Those prices are wince-inducing when compared to the fiber service available in much of France, for instance. Bouygues Telecom is currently offering fiber triple-play bundles with 1Gbps maximum download speeds for just 19 euros per month ($20 per month) with a 12-month contract.
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But fiber connections in Europe and the US have limited reach, even in major cities, as New York City residents discovered when Verizon failed to deliver on its promise to blanket the city with Fios. Installing fiber is also prohibitively expensive in rural areas, so ISPs like AT&T are instead working on delivering faster connections over the air to rural customers.
AT&T on Monday announced the availability of its Fixed Wireless Internet to several locations in Georgia, where customers can expect 10Mbps, which is slow compared to fiber but better than the dial-up or satellite connections that large swaths of rural America rely on.
AT&T plans to bring the service to 17 more states by the end of the year. Fixed Wireless Internet sends a signal from an antenna to a receiver mounted on or near a subscriber's home. Eventually, AT&T plans to eliminate the need for home receivers with its AirGig service, still in the testing phase.