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Fastest-ever Internet available for more people in Twin Cities

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More people in the Twin Cities will have access to the fastest-ever home Internet in the coming months.

CenturyLink, Inc., which is the main provider of land-line phone service in the metro, announced Tuesday it will be providing faster Internet for residents and businesses in 16 cities, including Minneapolis-St. Paul, over the next 12 months.

The company says this new fiber-optic service will provide the fastest-ever home-Internet speed of up to 1 gigabit per second. Other companies, like Comcast, have home Internet speeds that top out at about 100 megabits per second in the Twin Cities, the Pioneer Press reports.

CenturyLink isn't the only service provider with 1 gigabit Internet speeds. Google is rolling out Google Fiber service in a handful of U.S. cities, but not any in Minnesota. US Internet, a Minnetonka-based broadband provider, already offers gigabit-per-second Internet service, but only to select areas of Minneapolis.

CenturyLink says it plans to begin gradually rolling out the service in Minneapolis and St. Paul, but didn't specify if other metro-area municipalities will get the service as well, the Pioneer Press reports.

Residential and business customers in the Twin Cities can visit CenturyLink's website here to find out if the new service is available to them.

Pricing for the 1 gigabit speed Internet service, if bundled with other services, such as telephone and DirecTV, starts at $79 a month. If Internet access is purchased alone, it costs about $109 a month.

The Pioneer Press says the pricing for CenturyLink is roughly in line with the 105-megabit-per-second Comcast service, with debuted in the metro area last year.

Pricing for small businesses depends on a variety of factors, including size of the company.

How fast is 1 gigabit?

CenturyLink says its 1 gigabit service is about 100 times faster than the average home Internet speeds, and about 10 times faster than Comcast's fastest residential-broadband service in the Twin Cities.

The gigabit-per-second speeds will allow customers to stream high-definition video with little to no delays as well as download movies, songs and TV shows in seconds, the company says.

The company also says residential customers who have multiple devices connected to one Internet connection in their home will have more than enough capacity and speed to support other uses of the Internet – like online gaming, home automation and cloud services.

The speeds will also be "symmetrical," meaning users will get the same upload speeds as their download speeds, according to the Washington Post.

Although this speedy Internet service is great, and will help the United States catch up to countries in Asia and Europe that have had gigabit-per-second speeds for several years, the Pioneer Press' tech blog says the average home doesn't need Internet speeds this fast, even homes that have several devices connected to the Internet at once.

Faster service means different wires

Instead of using the copper wires traditionally used for Internet and phone service, the gigabit-per-second service requires fiber-optic lines to be connected directly to homes – that means for most Twin Cities customers, CenturyLink will have to replace the old wires, the Star Tribune says.

To do so, CenturyLink must replace the old wires located on poles, under streets and buried in peoples' yards.

Adding fiber to homes requires fiber infrastructure nearby – and that's only available in parts of the Twin Cities, the Pioneer Press says. CenturyLink plans to unfold more fiber infrastructure in the next few years, but it needs permission from the cities and not all local governments are on board, the newspaper notes.

The Pioneer Press says CenturyLink will negotiate with a number of municipalities in the coming months to determine where the gigabit-per-second Internet may be available.

CenturyLink officials told the Star Tribune that the company has "thousands of route miles" of fiber to build the 1 gigabit speed Internet in the metro area.

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