Rocket Fiber launches superfast Internet service
Rocket Fiber launches superfast Internet service
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Originally Published: November 12, 2015 2:30 PM Modified: November 12, 2015 3:13 PM
Rocket Fiber launches superfast Internet service for downtown Detroit businesses, residents
Dan Gilbert-backed company boosts service to help improve city’s technology infrastructure, attract business
By Rachel Premack
Detroit-based Rocket Fiber today announced the formal launch of its ultrafast optical fiber Internet service, which it says is up to 1,000 times faster than current average Internet speeds.
Residents at The Albert and Malcomson apartment buildings in Detroit’s Capitol Park neighborhood and tenants at 19 office buildings, including One Kennedy Square, are the first to connect to Detroit’s fiber-optic Internet. Apartment tenants began beta testing in October, while businesses in the office buildings are wired and will go live early next year.
The residential fee for 1 gigabits per second Internet service, which is the typical fiber connectivity speed, is $70 per month. For 10 Gbps, among the quickest worldwide, the service is $299 per month. Pricing for business services is on a case-by-case basis.
Dozens of buildings and thousands of residents will be added to Rocket Fiber’s network in 2016 throughout downtown and Midtown, where construction has already begun, according to Carolyn Artman, senior public relations manager at Rock Ventures LLC.
Rocket Fiber CEO Marc Hudson said the company will then expand to other Detroit neighborhoods and has received requests from communities in metro Detroit and nationwide.
Rocket Fiber is not the only game in town.
Southfield-based ManagedWay Co. said last week that it had begun offering high speed Internet on a fiber network to residents of Broderick Tower next to Grand Circus Park. Royal Oak-based Metro Wireless International Inc. said it is using that system as a base to then offer high speed Internet, either wirelessly or through a fiber network, to other residents and businesses in a seven mile radius from Broderick Tower. The base price for the service is $99.
In October, East Lansing-based LightSpeed Communications LLC said it started the first gigabit Internet service to downtown Detroit residents. Residents of the 56-unit Savings Bank Lofts Building at 1212 Griswold St. in Capitol Park can subscribe for $65 per month.
Rocket Fiber was founded in 2014 by Hudson, COO Edi Demaj and Chief Technology Officer Randy Foster — all former employees of the Dan Gilbert-owned Rock Ventures Family of Companies. Rocket Fiber employs 30 and plans to hire more this year as the company grows.
Gilbert and his companies provided the initial $30 million investment. Rocket Fiber is not yet profitable and Hudson did not have an estimate for when it would turn a profit, he told Crain’s today.
Internet at 10 Gbps exist in only a handful of cities worldwide. This distinction could help Detroit boost its reputation as an emerging tech hub.
“This will create the companies that are going to create the jobs for people in our community,” Jill Ford said, Detroit’s director of entrepreneurship and innovation. “This kind of leap forward will create a whole new level of innovation and really will usher in the kind of entrepreneurship and ideas that are going to create a generation of companies that we might not even be able to foresee at this point.”
Typical Internet service is delivered through copper phone or cable lines. Fiber-optic Internet uses glass or plastic wires that are slightly thicker than a strand of hair. These are more efficient in carrying more data over larger distances with less loss. In Detroit, Rocket Fiber has laid 17 miles of wire.
Fiber Internet has popped up nationwide, provided by small technology firms like East Lansing-based LightSpeed and by Google Fiber in midsize cities like Kansas City. It has become especially popular in cities looking to attract the tech industry to boost their local economy. In these cities, speeds reach 1,000 megabits per second, or 1 gigabit per second. Traditional broadband connectivity offers 10 Mbps. For example, downloading an HD movie with typical Internet service takes about 11 minutes while on a computer with fiber Internet it takes 7 seconds.
Fiber optic’s appeal stems from its potential to encourage innovation; fast Internet speeds could draw entrepreneurs looking to use the best technology available to build their products. Officials in Chattanooga, Tenn., where fiber lines were installed in 2009 and 2010, told the Detroit Free Press in March that fiber Internet has been a “huge tool” in recruiting and retaining talent.
Hudson expressed similar aspirations in an August Crain’s interview on fiber connectivity in Detroit.
“Rocket Fiber will be a platform of innovation,” he said. “Big thinkers and entrepreneurs who want to create the next generation of Web-based products will be able to utilize some of the fastest Internet in the world right here in Detroit to tinker and build. We’ve always had a history of innovation here in Detroit and now we’ll have more cutting-edge digital infrastructure we need to continue that tradition.”
Also Thursday, the technology startup announced the opening of its new headquarters in 1505 Woodward Ave., a Bedrock Real Estate-owned building downtown. Detroit-based architecture firm Rossetti and office design firm dPOP! designed the office with an outer-space motif, which Hudson said symbolizes how gravity does not constrain the aspirations or imaginations of Rocket Fiber employees.