Fiber OpticsFlorida-based ITS Telecom joins the ranks of rural telcos offering gigabit service – with a couple of twists to its implementation.

Unlike some other companies that offer gigabit speeds only on the downstream path, ITS’s service will be symmetrical, supporting gigabit speeds in both directions. ITS’s approach also differs from that of some other companies in that some existing customers will be automatically upgraded to gigabit speeds.

Symmetrical Gigabit Service
The move to symmetrical gigabit service was made possible, in large part, by a change in rural telco tariffs set by the National Exchange Carriers Association, explained ITS Telecom CEO Jeff Leslie in an interview. About a month ago, NECA implemented a new symmetrical tariff called SDSL, said Leslie.

“As a result, it allowed us to be able to provision symmetrical service up to 1 gigabit that would have been prohibitively costly under the old tariff,” he explained.

ITS’s symmetrical gigabit service will be sold as part of a package that also includes voice service with unlimited long-distance and network management services and will cost $129 for the first 12 months, then increase to $149. That’s about what ITS charged before for asymmetrical service supporting 100 Mbps downstream – and customers subscribing to the asymmetrical 100 Mbps service will be automatically upgraded to the gigabit symmetrical service over the next month or so. That includes about 3% to 5% of ITS’s broadband base, Leslie said.

ITS also will be launching symmetrical service at rates of 50 Mbps, 200 Mbps and 500 Mbps. Each of these speed tiers replaces a previous asymmetrical offering that was considerably slower, even on the downstream side – and here, too, existing customers will be automatically upgraded to the replacement tier.

The most popular speed tier is the lowest-cost tier, which currently provided 6 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream. ITS also has a considerable number of customers – about 20% to 25% — who currently receive service at the tier just above the basic tier and who will be upgraded to 200 Mbps symmetrical service.

ITS has been getting requests for symmetrical service from customers, Leslie said. Although he did not elaborate on what is driving that demand, it’s not surprising at a time when more and more people are sharing videos with friends and family and uploading photos to social media sites.

AT&T has noted that traffic to the Internet is growing at a faster rate than traffic from the Internet. And Verizon has noted that 20 percent of U.S. broadband households are Power Users who spend a lot of time online and who upload nearly as much content as they download.