PC magazine ranks Longmont third nationally for internet speeds

LONGMONT – The rollout of Longmont’s NextLight municipal broadband service continues to put the city on the map as it relates to the fastest available Internet speeds nationwide.

PC magazine this week ranked Longmont third in the country among cities with the fastest average Internet upload and download speeds based on tests conducted by the publication. Only Kansas City, Mo. — one of the seven cities where Google Fiber offers its gigabit service — and Deltona, Fla., topped Longmont on the list.

Granted, Comcast — ranked in the same analysis as the fastest among major Internet providers nationally — is still the biggest player in Longmont. But Comcast’s footprint spreads up and down Colorado’s Front Range, and no other cities in the state made the top 10 of PC Magazine’s list. So it stands to reason that NextLight is helping give Longmont an extra boost as the two compete in a way that isn’t happening in most cities around the country.

“We’re very pleased with the ratings here,” NextLight spokesman Scott Rochat said. “We’re also not particularly surprised by it.”

NextLight touts a charter-member rate for its 1-gigabit fiber-optic internet service of $49.99 per month. As the buildout of NextLight’s network continues throughout Longmont, the city-owned service so far boasts nearly 6,800 customers. But perhaps more telling is that, in areas of town where the service is available and where the city has marketed its three-month charter-rate period, Rochat said the take rate stands at 56 percent.

It’s perhaps no coincidence then that Comcast, according to its website, currently offers its 250-megabit service for only $69.99 per month in Longmont versus $79.99 per month in cities such as Boulder, Fort Collins, Loveland and Greeley.

Comcast launched its 250-megabit tier of service throughout Longmont and the rest of its Colorado footprint last year. Spokeswoman Leslie Oliver said the company is continuing to build out its fiber-optics network deeper into communities to help facilitate faster speeds. But the company is also testing new modem technology — DOCSIS 3.1 — in select cities such as Atlanta and Nashville that can deliver 1-gig speeds through the cable connections already in homes.

“So we anticipate it spreading throughout the country through all markets,” Oliver said, noting that there is no specific timeline for 1-gig speed rollouts in Colorado.

Comcast edged out Verizon FIOS and Suddenlink to top PC magazine’s rankings among major ISPs nationwide for best speeds. Among all ISPs, Comcast came in fifth, with Google Fiber — available in only seven cities so far — easily topping that list.

The highest tier of service Comcast offers in select areas of Colorado now is 2-gigabit, which goes for $299.99 per month.

“Faster Internet speeds in the home are becoming increasingly important to customers who are looking to take advantage of exciting new technologies,” Oliver said. “We will continue to innovate and strengthen our network and lay the groundwork to ensure our customers enjoy the fastest Internet experience for years to come.”

As for NextLight, the service is live for all but a couple small pockets in the Phase 1 and Phase 6 areas of town. The service is also available in most of Phase 3 and about half of Phase 2. The buildout continues in Phases 4 and 5, meanwhile.

Rochat said the expectation is for major construction on the NextLight buildout to be complete throughout Longmont near the end of the year. But it will take into 2017 to make the service available to all areas, he said.