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Westminster fiber network to launch this summer

Some Westminster residents and businesses can expect to have access soon to high-speed Internet from fiber optic cables as the pilot phase of the citywide fiber network nears completion.

A ceremonial lighting ceremony for the fiber is scheduled for June 26, according to Westminster Common Council President Robert Wack.

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"It's down to the wire," he said.

The city is paying for construction of the network, which could be completed in up to five phases, according to Wack. The pilot phase includes two business parks adjacent to the Carroll County Regional Airport and a residential community on the west side of town, including Carroll Lutheran Village.

Ground was broken for the pilot phase in October and engineering is underway for the second and third phases, Wack said.

Toronto-based network operator Ting is gearing up to begin local marketing and hired Westminster resident Val Bortz to serve as the local manager. Ting will be installing electronics throughout June and the service is expected to be available within weeks of the lighting ceremony.

"We're pleased with the progress and the city has been great to work with," Director of Ting Networks Adam Eisner said. "We're getting close. It's crunchtime now."

Westminster is one of two cities Ting has contracted with to provide gigabit broadband service to customers using fiber optic cables.

The first city, Charlottesville, Virginia, had its network go live June 2, according to Eisner. Residents in certain portions of the city where the network is operational are now able to sign up for service and residents nearby can sign up for updates to see when the network will be extended to them.

For uploads and downloads at 1,000 megabits per second, Ting will charge Charlottesville homeowners a $399 fee then $89 per month, according to ting.com/internet. Businesses will pay a $599 installation fee then $139 per month.

Eisner said a fee structure for Westminster has not been finalized, but he envisions it being similar or identical to the pricing in Charlottesville.

"We want to offer a consistent price point and service in every city," he said.

Ting will also offer a lower tier of service, five megabits per second for $19 per month after the $399 installation fee.

Speedy service

Wack said many residents are impatient for the network to be up and running, but even more are just now catching wind that the network is being built.

"Even after all the talking we have done, I still get people coming up to me asking about the WiFi," Wack said. Ting will be offering Internet service which can then be connected to WiFi by the user.

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Residents at Carroll Lutheran Village are very much aware of the impending launch of the network, according to Vice President of Finance Steve Powell.

"I think there's a lot of anticipation and excitement about what it might bring," he said.

Construction is wrapping up at Carroll Lutheran Village, according to Powell, and details are being finalized to inform residents of service options.

Powell said Carroll Lutheran Village was an excellent community to be in the pilot phase because of the density of residents, which will allow Ting to build a customer base rapidly.

Businesses are also anticipating faster Internet, according to Brian Ditto, director of real estate development and leasing for the Carroll County Commerce Park.

"From our perspective as the landlord, we want to be able to offer this kind of service," he said.

Ditto said he hears from his broker that Internet access and speed are key considerations for most businesses looking for space.

"Especially for medium to large businesses, it becomes a key consideration for them," he said.

Phone and TV

Eisner said Ting plans to launch its cell phone service in Westminster along with Internet. Ting emerged as a mobile service provider using the Sprint network.

Customers with both Internet and cellphone service through Ting can manage both accounts in the same place, according to Eisner. He said he uses his Ting phone whenever he is in Westminster.

After the fiber network is up and running, Eisner said television could be the next service offered. The company is working on sourcing content now as well as creating a pleasant user experience from the moment a Ting television box is turned on.

"Ting is all about making things simple and awesome," he said.

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