MUSKEGON — The merger of GTE Corp. into Verizon Communications Inc. a year ago has resulted in the rolling out of a new high-speed Internet service for the Muskegon area.
Verizon Online, the Internet service provider arm of the telecommunications giant, recently began offering digital-subscriber line, or DSL, service to residential and business customers in all of Muskegon County and its Coopersville and Marne service areas in northern Ottawa County.
Verizon Online, the latest and by far the largest company to offer high-speed Internet service locally, features four varying service and speed packages, starting with a plan that provides customers at a maximum connection speed of 786 kilobits per second for $49.95 a month. Additional packages offer Web and e-mail storage and a downstream connection speed of 1.5 megabits per second.
The launching of the service as of July 1 is part of a Verizon Communications corporatewide initiative to extend high-speed Internet service across the country in response to growing consumer demand.
“We see the trend,” said John VanWyck, Verizon’s public affairs manager in Muskegon. “The demand is very high.”
Forecasts show high-speed, or broadband, Internet use growing rapidly in the coming years, as demand increases and telecommunications firms and Internet service providers respond to the market. Telecommuters and the growing number of people who operate businesses from their homes are among the factors driving the increasing consumer demand for high-speed Internet connections.
Thirty-six percent of U.S. households, or more than 28 million, will have broadband connections by 2005, according to a report late last year by Internet research firm Jupiter Media Metrix. Broadband use will see mild growth through 2001, then increase “robustly” between 2002 and 2005, as service providers catch up with and accommodate pent-up demand, the firm said.
“The popularity and demand for high-speed access to the Internet is growing faster than the original demand for Internet access grew in its infancy,” said Dennis Harmon, Verizon’s area manager for customer operations in Michigan.
The DSL service that Verizon now offers and high-speed cable modem — which cable television provider Charter Communications began offering its customers in many areas of West Michigan last year — will split the number of broadband users. Cable modem providers will hold a 48 percent share of the broadband market, with companies offering DSL service accounting for 41 percent, according to Jupiter Media Metrix.
As part of its corporatewide broadband expansion, Verizon is targeting at least 10 percent, and perhaps as much as 20 percent, of its investments to occur in small, rural communities such as Marne and Coopersville, which are the kind of areas where telecommunications industry has been slow to connect.
Verizon, with nearly 800,000 telephone customers in Michigan, will extend DSL to additional portions of its service area in the state over the next 18 months, VanWyck said.
One drawback to DSL service is the need for customers to be located within two-and-a-half to three miles of a telephone-switching center.
About 75 percent of the potential customers in Verizon’s initial DSL service area fall within that window, VanWyck said. That rate is as high as 90 percent within Muskegon, and 60 percent to 70 percent in the Marne-Coopersville services areas, he said.
Verizon Communications, the world’s largest telecommunications provider, moved into the Muskegon market with the acquisition of the former GTE Corp. completed in July 2000.