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St. Louis Wants in on 'Gigabit' Internet Service

The city of St. Louis, Downtown STL and the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership issued a request for information on bringing in ISPs to provide affordable Gigabit Internet similar to the Google service in neighboring Kansas City, Mo.

(TNS) -- St. Louis economic development officials want someone to give St. Louis the kind of ultra-fast Internet service that Google is bringing to Kansas City.

On Wednesday, they asked private companies to describe how they might provide “gigabit” broadband service here. They’re offering access to the city’s own unused fiber lines, rights-of-way and utility poles to attract providers.

Gigabit service is 10 to 20 times faster than most residential broadband service available around St. Louis. A gigabit is enough to download 25 songs in one second, or a TV show in less than three seconds.

Some St. Louis businesses already have gigabit access but pay “several thousand dollars a month” for it, said Mobin Khan, director of economic development and research at Downtown STL, a business group. Google in Kansas City sells a residential gigabit connection for $70 a month.

Widely available gigabit service is needed to attract companies using “big data” and technology startups to St. Louis, Khan said.

Around St. Louis, residents in Highland can have gigabit services for $400 a month. Arch Fiber Networks offers gigabit service in some downtown buildings. It was charging $70 a month to loft residents as of last year.

Charter Communications offers “Gig +” service to commercial customers with speeds that can go above 10 gigabits.

The city of St. Louis, Downtown STL, and the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, a city-county agency, issued the request for information Wednesday. It invites companies to suggest how business might provide gigabit service to the city, and eventually St. Louis County.

A request for information is a step short of a request for a proposal to begin construction.

The hope is to roll out the service first in downtown, said Missy Kelley, president of Downtown STL. The service would then expand to Cortex in the Central West End, the Midtown Alley and the Cherokee Street area. The service would then spread through the city and county.

“We’re trying to make it part of the infrastructure throughout the city,” she said.

Most broadband service around St. Louis is provided by Charter and AT&T. CenturyLink operates in parts of St. Charles County.

A Charter spokesman says the company plans to submit a plan for broader gigabit service to the city.

AT&T in 2014 announced plans to roll out gigabit service in St. Louis. Khan said the timing and pricing were unclear.

In an email, AT&T spokeswoman Katie Nagus said “work is underway” to bring speeds of up to one gigabit to “parts of the St. Louis metro area.”

©2016 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.