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Detroit’s Rocket Fiber debuts super-fast Internet

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News

Rocket Fiber, which promises to deliver the fastest Internet available, debuted its downtown Detroit headquarters Thursday and launched service to two Capitol Park apartments complexes.

The startup contends its new fiber optic Internet service is 1,000 times faster than the average Internet connectivity in Detroit. That claim appears to be legitimate, says a Michigan State University professor who studies electronic and mobile commerce and Internet networks.

Rocket Fiber is initially targeting downtown and Midtown. Residential customers can choose plans of between 1 gigabits and 10 gigabits. Businesses can order 100-gigabit service.

For residents, the 1-gig service will cost $70 a month, the 10-gig service $299 a month. Pricing for businesses will be based on custom rates.

“I would say that claim of 1,000 times faster is legitimate,” said Constantinos Coursaris, associate chair of Michigan State University’s College of Communication Arts and Sciences. Most current Internet service is based on megabits speed,which is s slower than gigabits, he said. So even, the 1 gigabit service is significantly faster than what most residents have now, he said.

“As far as the 100-gig service, all I can is ‘wow,’ ” Coursaris said.

“Ten-gigabit Internet will put Detroit in an elite category in which technology startups and growth companies will naturally and quickly emerge inside its borders,” says Randy Foster, Rocket Fiber co-founder and chief technology officer.

Ten-gig service, for example, allows a movie that runs a typical 1 hour and 40 minutes to download in an average of 40 seconds. Doctors will be able to upload and download high-resolution scans with virtually no lag time, letting them assist patients at any hour of the day almost instantaneously. Musicians, artists and filmmakers can create and edit content with speeds that were unimaginable in the past, Rocket Fiber contends.

“Internet made in Detroit” was the tag line in a Rocket Fiber video shown at the company’s new headquarters, on the third floor of 1505 Woodward. The building is one of the dozens of downtown properties bought and renovated by Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock Real Estate in the past five years. Gilbert is an investor in the firm founded last year.

Rocket Fiber beta testing has already begun for residents connected to the service at the Albert and Malcomson buildings in downtown Capitol Park. In addition, 19 office buildings have been connected to its network. Large numbers of business and residential customers are scheduled to “go live” in early 2016.

Rocket Fiber has laid 17 miles of fiber in the city and began activating clients this month. The company is expected to expand to Midtown Detroit next year and then other areas of the city and eventually beyond.

Rocket Fiber wasn’t first to the fiber optic-based Internet market in Detroit. In October, Lansing-based LightSpeed Communications offered a 1-gig service to the Detroit Savings Bank Lofts at 1211 Griswold in Capitol Park.

The 1-gig Internet service is being offered for $65 a month.

LightSpeed claims to be the first and largest provider of gigabit Internet connections serving Michigan homes. LightSpeed began its expansion into Southfield and Detroit earlier this year. The first phase of expansion was completed in August. It already services Cobo Center and the Archdiocese of Detroit.

Comcast is expected to join the fiber optic race. In 2016, it plans to significantly increase its fiber network across downtown and Midtown. It also has plans to roll out a service on its existing hybrid fiber/coax network that will provide 1 gigabit speeds to virtually every household in its coverage area. It also offers an Internet business service with speeds of up to 10 gigs.