(Oregonian (Portland, OR) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Aug. 05--For years, Comcast has been the only option in Portland for cable TV and has offered the fastest Internet service. That's changing, and changing rapidly, as CenturyLink expands its residential fiber network and as Google Fiber contemplates jumping in the market.
Fiber-optics carry online data as pulses of light. The networks are extremely fast and have tremendous capacity, enabling more robust service.
By the end of 2015 Portland could have three companies offering cable TV in the city, and at least two of them offering "gigabit" Internet (1,000 megabits per second -- roughly 100 times faster than typical download speeds today.)
Here's a quick look at how they match up:
CenturyLink: After incrementally rolling out fiber in Portland over the past couple of years, the Louisiana-based phone company will make a big push between now and the end of 2015. For competitive reasons, CenturyLink won't say which neighborhoods it serves or what percentage of the city will have service. (Online reports suggest it's already available in parts of inner Southeast Portland.)
But its top-end service beats Comcast's speeds, and it's here months or years before Google Fiber.
CenturyLink is negotiating a new video franchise with Portland, potentially opening the door to its Prism cable TV service. The company hasn't announced any plans, but says "stay tuned."
Gigabit service is $152 a month, or $80 a month for the first year for customers who subscribe to multiple CenturyLink services. Those bundled customers can keep that lower rate for three years.
A 100 megabit per second service is $50 a month for three years with an introductory bundle, and a 40 Mbps service is $30 a month for three years with an introductory bundle.
Comcast: The cable company's big advantage is its service is available throughout the city, now, and it has a large base of existing customers. It offers bundled rates for customers who subscribe to two or three services -- phone, Internet or cable.
Comcast's standard "Performance" tier offers downloads of 25 megabits per second (Mbps) for $67 a month, or $54 for customers who also subscribe to phone or cable TV.
Comcast's top-end "Extreme" residential service offers downloads of 105 Mbps for $115 a month, or $100 for subscribers with phone or cable.
Google Fiber: The company is contemplating offering its gigabit Internet service in the Portland area. It's reached a franchise agreement with Portland and says it will decide by year's end whether to offer service in the city and five suburbs. Service could begin in some areas as soon as next year.
Google hasn't announced Portland-area pricing, but in other markets it charges $70 a month for gigabit Internet with high-definition cable TV for an extra $50 a month.
Like CenturyLink, Google says it will serve only select "fiberhoods" where a critical mass of customers have committed to subscribe to the service. For more on Google's service, check out this Google Fiber Q&A.
The metro area outside Portland city limits
Frontier Communications: Already has fiber in most of Washington County and much of east Multnomah County. The company says it will offer gigabit speeds in "the next several quarters," and will undercut gigabit pricing with slower tiers that it says are still plenty speedy for most people.
Vancouver: The Couv is largely left out of the latest fiber rush. Google Fiber did not include it among markets where it's considering expansion, and for now CenturyLink says it will only build fiber to brand-new developments.
Google Fiber: In addition to Portland, it's contemplating service in Gresham, Lake Oswego, Tigard, Beaverton and Hillsboro. Not Vancouver, though.
-- Mike Rogoway; twitter: @rogoway; 503-294-7699
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