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Bright House will unveil super-fast Internet line in Tampa Bay suburbs

TAMPA — Bright House Networks will soon launch Florida's fastest home Internet connection in the Tampa Bay suburbs, offering a hyper-speed competitor to broadband powerhouses like Google Fiber, the cable company said Thursday.

The ultrafast gigabit network, more than 10 times speedier than Bright House's top-line "Lightning" service, will debut this spring in model homes by Tampa subdivision developer Metro Development Group.

The fiber service, ULTRAFi, will come prewired in 6,000 homes Metro plans to build over the next three years, and more than 20,000 homes in years after.

Three gigabit-wired subdivisions — Park Creek and Waterleaf, south of Riverview; and Union Park in Wesley Chapel — are scheduled to open this spring. Three other communities in south Hillsborough County are scheduled to open by the end of the year.

The service will also be accessible wirelessly across the clubhouses, playgrounds and miles of nature trails, for those times when homeowners must have a Wi-Fi video chat with the kids at the pool or watch Netflix while out for a walk.

The amenity could become one of the more imaginative local attempts at winning over young and increasingly connected families, the bread and butter of suburban home builders.

"When someone moves into a house, you have water, you have sewer, you have electricity — that's just assumed," said Kartik Goyani, Metro's vice president of operations. "Internet should be the same. I don't know about you, but I can't live without my Internet device. I need it all the time."

Bright House's unveiling will make it one of the first cable operators in the country to commit to its own gigabit offering, coming on the heels of Google's vaunted fiber service, which the tech giant intends to expand to 34 cities across the country.

For a growing market energized by social media and streaming TV, the difference could prove dramatic. While Bright House's standard 10-megabit service could download 100 photos in 4 minutes and 40 seconds, a gigabit line could do the same in 3 seconds.

But Bright House, the sixth-largest cable company in America, serving about 2.4 million subscribers in Florida and other states, has shared no plans yet on whether it would expand the service to customers outside of those subdivisions, a spokesman said.

Metro, which has developed more than 25,000 homesites, most of them in Tampa Bay, will work with more than half a dozen home builders intending to construct homes in their subdivisions.

Costs for the gigabit service will be folded into homeowners' associations fees. Developers wouldn't say how much those fees would be or estimate prices for the new homes, which could range from 1,800 to 3,500 square feet.

The gigabit lines will be one of several high-tech add-ons helping futureproof Metro's homes, including wireless cameras, light dimmers and "smart" thermostats that can be viewed and controlled via mobile app.

The Jetsons-style perks are meant to distinguish Metro's segment of suburbia from the rest. But Goyani added that this sort of arrangement could soon become more a rule than an exception.

"People who don't do this are going to be obsolete in five years or so," he said. "We're trying to stay ahead of the curve."

Contact Drew Harwell at (727) 893-8252 or dharwell@tampabay.com.

Bright House will unveil super-fast Internet line in Tampa Bay suburbs 03/13/14 [Last modified: Thursday, March 13, 2014 11:03pm]
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