Construction, Small Business & Startups, and Technology

Comcast gambles on downtown build-out

Telecom company hopes proactive investment will encourage businesses to take advantage of new fiber network.

December 29, 2017
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Comcast currently is working on an extension of its fiber network for downtown Grand Rapids, which is scheduled for completion in early 2018.

The cable giant is hoping more customers will follow.

The new network, which began in January 2017, will consist of 25.12 miles of Ethernet Grade fiber that will run through all main streets north of E. Fulton Street to I-196 and south of Fulton to Franklin Street SE. Comcast is investing about $1.35 million in the new network.

The network will pass 563 commercial buildings in downtown Grand Rapids housing 751 businesses.

“For the most part, all those businesses will benefit from fiber,” said Irma Clark, senior director of market strategy and development at Comcast Business. “If they aren’t connected to our services, they will still be able to benefit from the fiber on the street front.”

Clark said the fiber itself would be able to deliver up to 100 gigabits per second of data for large-scale businesses in the area, including DeVos Performance Hall, Grand Rapids Children’s Museum, JW Marriott, Spectrum Health, Van Andel Education Institute and Consumers Energy.

Small businesses, like restaurants, bars and doctor’s offices, would be able to use the 1-gigabit services, with the option to change internet speeds as their demands change.

“It gives smaller businesses that flexibility,” said Michelle Gilbert, vice president of public relations for Comcast Cable. “If they don’t need the fiber connection now that is capable of faster speeds, they can still benefit and grow from the fiber connection they have now.”

Comcast previously launched three phases of fiber build-outs in Kent County beginning in 2015. The builds encompassed the Gerald R. Ford International Airport, as well as several industrial businesses in the area.

Late in 2016, the company announced plans for a $2.8-million expansion of its fiber-based network in Kent County that added nearly 33 miles of fiber to 496 buildings housing 844 business tenants in a nearly 6-square-mile radius surrounding the Gerald R. Ford International Airport.

Clark added Comcast invested in the downtown build without having businesses sign up beforehand, expressing confidence businesses will be ready and willing to take advantage of the new fiber service once available.

“We have enough confidence that we are willing to go in proactively and invest in these businesses,” Clark said. “We know we’re bringing great stuff to the market.”

“It’s more of an ‘if-we-build-it-they-will-come’ mentality,” Gilbert added. “We are confident that we can earn the business by building out first. We’ve been in downtown a very long time. It’s just the strategy has changed to be more proactive.”

The downtown fiber build is expected to be complete by late January or early February, depending on weather conditions.

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