After purchasing Charlottesville fiber-optic Internet service provider Blue Ridge Interworks in February 2015, Ting has yet to announce formal plans to run fiber to Crozet, but rumors are circulating. “Ting is planning to pull fiber to Crozet,” wrote Mark McCardell, a member of the Parkside Village Homeowners’ Association, addressing other Crozet residents via neighborhood social networking site Nextdoor.com. “Many in our neighborhood have already paid the $9 to pre-order. The more people that express interest, the greater the incentive for them to pull the fiber out to Crozet.”
Ting Internet vice president of networks Adam Eisner said nothing has been decided. “The acquisition of BRI put us into the Charlottesville area and since then the goal has been to cover as much of the city in fiber as we can,” he said. “That said, as we continue to build up Charlottesville, we’ll be looking at customer interest in surrounding areas, and Crozet checks off a lot of the boxes that are interesting to us in terms of evaluating markets.”
Namely, those are rapid population growth, projected business development, and many young and affluent families interested in cutting the cord. “At this point, we haven’t run marketing efforts to look at it more closely, but Crozet is a good size area with a sizable market, so that’s something that will surely happen down the line,” said Eisner.
According to Eisner, McCardell’s announcement raised an important point. “On the customer side of things, we’ve worked with a lot of HOA’s in the Charlottesville area that got our attention basically by generating interest on the ground-level,” he said. “While some companies are very specific about the metrics they need to move into a given area—for instance, Google says they need 20 percent in x or y neighborhood or they’re not coming—we don’t do that. Instead, what we do is take $9 pre-orders, which serves as a barometer to gauge people’s interest.”
While Eisner refrained from setting a specific number, he said that a strong level of preorders would indicate it was worthwhile for Ting to invest in the expensive process of running fiber down Route 250 and into Crozet. “We have a unit that’s dedicated to working with HOA’s on bringing service in, so if the interest is there, that would be the place to begin,” he said.
With the Barnes Lumberyard development moving forward, Perrone Robotics CEO Paul Perrone said bringing fiber-optic service to the area would be an absolute boon, both for his company and others.
“We have many remote workers and customers, so, for us, having competitive high-speed Internet is crucial,” he said.
Seeking to offer a ‘virtually there’ presence during testing and certain demonstrations, as well as collaborations, Perronne said the company needs a lot of bandwidth, and would use the ultra-swift speeds for video chat, white-boarding, remote desktop viewing, telepresence robotics applications, and more. Considering PRI is competing and working with some of the highest high-tech companies in the world, it makes sense that they—and other companies like them—would want the best Internet speeds possible.
But for your average Crozetian, what would fiber-optic service do?
“So, I’ll start with saying this is the fastest Internet you could possibly get,” said Eisner. “Fiber is essentially a transformative technology—in other words, having a gigabit completely changes what you can do at home or work.” Imagine a future where, despite four kids gaming online, Netflix streaming in the back bedroom, a video conference taking place in mom’s home office, high-resolution photos uploading, dad in the kitchen making a Google Home grocery list—so on and etc.—there’s never any lag-time or buffering, ever, with uploads next to instantaneous.
“Fiber allows the possibility for increasing connectivity between devices in the home, because data is no longer an issue,” added Eisner. “You could have 20 or 30 devices all running at once and no matter how many you have everything happens immediately… Like autonomous cars in the realm of transportation, this technology is going to absolutely revolutionize what’s possible in a household.”
If Ting does come to Crozet, the residential gigabit package will run $89 per month, with installation costing “below $200,” and a purchasable ($200) or rentable ($9 per month) modem needed as well.
A Century Link representative said custom fiber-optic service could be provided to a business or individual were they willing to invest in it—cost figures were not forthcoming. The only other readymade fiber option for Crozetians comes through Comcast. “We offer a Gigabit Pro [package, which is] a professional residential-grade fiber-to-the-home solution that delivers 2 Gbps upload and download speeds,” said Eliza Findlay, a Comcast public relations manager for the southeast U.S. “And we’re currently running a promo for customers in Albemarle County: $149.99 for 24 months with free activation.”