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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

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April 24, 2008 9:44 AM

Qwest bringing fiber broadband to Seattle, other cities, but to everybody?

Posted by Brier Dudley

Finally, the company is offering truly high-speed broadband services with new packages announced this morning - a $50 per month package offering up to 12 Mbps, and a $100 per month package offering up to 20 Mbps.

Qwest's announcement said it's investing $300 million in the fiber services, which are now ahead of schedule and will reach 2 million customers by the end of 2008.

Sounds great, especially if the prices start to come down. But we still need more specifics on the rollout - how long will it take for the 14 million-plus homes in Qwest's service area to have access to fiber broadband?

When I asked a spokeswoman, she said the company can't get too specific "for competitive reasons."

"I can however now confirm that it will be coming to Seattle neighborhoods in rolling phases," she said.

(To see if it's coming to your neighborhood, go to Qwest.com and enter your phone number.)

Without a firm commitment, cities like Seattle may still feel obligated to build their own fiber networks to be sure everyone has access to truly high-speed services. Seattle's effort to lure an alternative to Qwest is moving ahead, by the way. The City Council this week agreed to commit $185,000 to the project, and the city is on track to seek proposals from vendors in September.

Responses would be in hand in January, according to the city's CTO Bill Schrier, although the schedule could be adjusted to sync with City Light's separate research into adding broadband services.

UPDATE: Qwest's spokeswoman told me you enter your zip code to find out if the service is available in your area. It's funny, though - I tried that and the site said the service is available, but when I entered my phone number and pinpointed my house's location, Qwest said the service wasn't available.

Even if it was available where I live, the price is pretty rich - to get the entry-level fiber service at $46.99, you have to also sign up for a $29.99 package of premium phone services, over and above your basic phone line. Without the bundle, it costs $51.99.

The difference between $52 and $47 isn't huge, but for me at least there's a psychological barrier at $50 per month - under $50 and I'd consider it, over $50 and it's out of the question...

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