Mediacom expands gigabit Internet service across Iowa

Signs for Mediacom Communications' 1-Gigabit Internet service rollout in Iowa Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017. (Matthew Patane/Clay & Milk)

About 1 million households in Iowa now have access to some of the fastest Internet around, if they choose to pay for it.

Mediacom Communications, one of the main Internet providers in Iowa, announced Wednesday that it was launching 1-Gigabit Internet service to the 309 communities it serves in Iowa.

While Mediacom is giving access to gigabit speeds, the number of Iowans willing to shell out for the service is unknown.

“I don’t know. We don’t know. … The message from us (is), when it comes and when the people want it, we’re ready and we’re here,” Mediacom CEO Rocco Commisso said when asked about expected adoption rates for the service.

Other Mediacom executive acknowledged that gigabit speeds may be more than what average users need currently.

“But, in the same token, once it’s available, people will find things to do with it,” Mediacom chief technology officer J.R. Walden said.

Mediacom’s 1 Gbps download/50 Mbps upload package comes with a standard cost of $139.99 a month. There is also a 6 terabyte monthly data cap.

A 500 Mbps download/30 Mbps upload package is also available for $119.99 a month and a 4 terabyte monthly data cap.

At launch, only wired Internet connections are available using Mediacom’s modems. The company expects to be able to provide wireless gigabit services in the second quarter of 2017.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds hailed Mediacom’s announcement as a major step for Internet service in the state.

“This is a tremendous milestone. It’s not only a huge triumph for your company but also for the effort to expand broadband statewide,” Reynolds said.

Closing a digital divide and providing better broadband service in rural areas, however, remains a priority for the state. Sparsely populated rural areas, ISPs have said, may make it cost prohibitive to expand service.

A 2016 Federal Communications Commission report estimated that upwards of 451,000 Iowans did not have access to 25 Mbps down/3 Mbps up Internet speeds. That disparity was more prominent in Iowa’s rural areas — 37 percent of rural Iowans did not have access to those speeds, compared to just 4 percent of those in urban areas.

Reports from Connect Iowa have found similar results.

Mediacom announced last March it would begin providing gigabit broadband access to its residential customers within three years.

The company had tested the service in Jefferson City and Columbia, Missouri, but Wednesday’s announcement marked the first statewide deployment.

Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at mpatane@clayandmilk.com.