I can’t remember the last time a browser tab froze on me or a video took a time-out to buffer.
It may be because, this fall, I got a taste of Google’s plans for the future of high-speed internet. I closed my account with AT&T and tried Webpass, the virtually unknown, 13-year-old service provider that Alphabet’s
subsidiary Google Fibre acquired in June for an undisclosed sum.
I have never been more satisfied with my internet. (Webpass did not pay me to write that.) Binge-watching Netflix is a breeze. I can open as many browser tabs as my heart desires.
Based in San Francisco, Webpass focuses on providing blazing fast internet connections for residential and commercial buildings in the US using point-to-point wireless technology.
Here’s how it works: Webpass strikes a partnership with a building that allows the company to install a technology called “pCell,” which is consists of a wireless radio on the roof. When a resident signs up, a Webpass technician activates the Ethernet port in their unit that receives data from the building’s antenna. The resident needs only plug in their router, and voilà.
Webpass offers internet speeds of 100, 200, or 500 megabits per second, depending on the building, for less than the cost of traditional service providers. It costs $60 a month regardless of your building’s internet speeds, and installation is free.
For comparison, AT&T charged me $82 a month for download speeds of 45 Mbps at my last apartment.
Since its first installation in a San Francisco building in 2003, Webpass has expanded to five US markets and brought over 800 buildings online, according to the website.
When my boyfriend and I moved to the city’s Dogpatch neighbourhood in October, we learned our new building provided six months of free internet via Webpass as a new-tenant perk.
My boyfriend signed up online, and a Webpass technician came to our apartment that afternoon — on time — to install the data jack. Set-up took all of 10 minutes.
Since then, we’ve enjoyed better upload and download speeds. Here’s a screenshot of two speed tests from our old apartment (using AT&T) and our new one.
We experienced an outage in November, but the network was up and running within hours.
Unfortunately, becoming a Webpass customer isn’t as easy as signing up online. Your building has to be Webpass-equipped, and the company only installs its wireless technology in dense, urban areas because of how the network works. Rural-dwellers may be out of luck for some time, though Google Fibre’s acquisition could help accelerate deployment.
Until then, I’ll be in San Francisco, enjoying my “Gilmore Girls” marathon lag-free.
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