Over the past couple years, Minneapolis has joined a handful of cities that offer residents fiber-optic Internet access, but access remains limited. On the map below you can see the streets where residents can sign up for this fast Internet connection through US Internet (USI). Beyond providing fiber-optic Internet, USI is also the provider of Minneapolis’ city-wide wireless internet. The company landed a 10-year contract with the City of Minneapolis to provide these servcies in 2006.
Fiber-optic cables work much like normal wires, but instead of using copper (or other metals) to transfer electrical signals, they use light, allowing signals to travel much faster and farther. Compared to conventional transmission methods used by Internet service providers such as wireless, DSL, or cable, fiber optic is hundreds of times faster — and according to USI’s pricing, very inexpensive. The average residential internet connection is about 10 Mbps (megabits per second) and an average 3G phone connection is about 2 or 3 Mbps, while USI’s fiber-optic options reach up to 1,000 Mbps.
When I talked with Joe Caldwell, USI cofounder and vice president of marketing, he explained that the main reason USI began offering residential fiber was to help alleviate bandwidth congestion on the USI Wireless network. This led to providing fiber in only specific areas — the neighborhoods that have high use of the USI Wireless network (see map below). Caldwell added that USI does not have any plans to expand the fiber offering to other areas, assuming there are no more bandwidth issues with the wireless network.