In case you are wondering, Lawrence, that big Internet giant in the rear view mirror is Google.
While Google was making news in Kansas City on Thursday by announcing its plans for rolling out super-fast Internet in the metro area, a local broadband provider was pointing out those speeds already exist in some parts of Lawrence.
“We have beat them to the punch so far,” said Joshua Montgomery, co-owner of the newly named Wicked Broadband, which previously operated as Lawrence Freenet and Community Wireless Corp.
Montgomery said his company recently began offering 1 gigabit service — which is 100 times faster than the standard Internet speeds found in most homes — to five Lawrence fraternity and sorority houses and has plans to add at least two new apartment complexes by Sept. 1.
On Thursday, Google held a press conference in Kansas City announcing its pricing plan and rollout strategy for 1 gigabit service in Kansas City. Google wasn’t clear on when service may begin in Kansas City.
Montgomery said Wicked likely won’t be able to offer 1 gigabit service to the entire Lawrence community anytime soon, but it now looks like Google won’t be offering it to the entire Kansas City market either. Google officials said Thursday that they will only roll out the superfast service to neighborhoods that have large numbers of residents pre-register for the service.
Eventually, Montgomery said that is a model his company also would like to use to extend the service in Lawrence residential areas. But now Wicked is focusing on serving high density areas like apartment complexes and fraternity and sorority houses.
When a fiber project is completed along 23rd Street next month, Montgomery said that will allow his company to extend the high-speed Internet to 13 additional apartment complexes, if the owners agree to purchase the service for the entire complex. Plans don’t call for individual apartment tenants to sign up for the service. Instead, Wicked is trying to sell the service to entire complexes at a rate of $11 per month per living unit.
Businesses along major routes in Lawrence — including parts of Clinton Parkway Iowa, 23rd and Sixth streets — also can sign up for the service, but at significantly higher rates than those offered for the apartment complexes.
Wicked has been able to undertake the high-speed Internet project in part because of several deals it has struck to use city infrastructure at below-market rates. For example, the fiber the company is installing along 23rd Street is being placed in conduit owned by the city and used to connect the city’s traffic signals.
Other Internet providers in Lawrence had objected to the deal, but city commissioners approved the agreement, saying they thought the high speed service could be a magnet for innovation in Lawrence.
The latest twist in the dealing with the company is its new name. Montgomery said the company dissolved the not-for-profit Lawrence Freenet organization last month. All future marketing will be done under the Wicked Broadband name, which is owned by Community Wireless Corp., a for-profit corporation that holds many of the agreements with the city.
Those agreements with the city have stipulated that Community Wireless must make a good faith effort to provide free or reduced rate Internet service for Lawrence’s low income population. Montgomery said Wicked currently has about 10 percent of its subscriber base on free service.