Ashland Fiber Network officials recently announced the city-owned enterprise is offering new Internet service that is up to twice as fast as AFN's previous high-speed service.




With speeds of up to 10 megabits per second, AFN Platinum was created in response to changing Internet habits. Customers can quickly download videos and high-definition movies, teleconference, share photos and do other activities that require fast speeds.




The new service was made possible because of a $100,000 upgrade to AFN's infrastructure that included a new cable modem termination system. The system sends and receives signals at AFN facilities on North Mountain Avenue.




"The new CMTS allows AFN to provide the next level of Internet service with significantly faster speeds and better quality of service," said Joe Franell, Information Technology Director for the city of Ashland.




AFN's old system, which allowed speeds of up to 5 megabits per second, had gone passed its projected lifespan and AFN workers had to hunt for replacement parts on e-Bay.




The Ashland Citizens Budget Committee and Ashland City Council authorized spending $125,000 to replace the system during this fiscal year.




In addition to adding a new Internet level for users who need extra bandwidth, AFN has unveiled an entry level service for people who have been using traditional dial-up Internet over their phone lines.




Traditional dial-up allows speeds of only up to 56 kilobits, while the new AFN Bronze service has speeds of 256 kilobits per second.




AFN's entry level Internet service is expected to retail for about the same price as dial-up service, Franell said.




AFN wholesales Internet service to local businesses, called Internet Service Providers, that retail the service to residents and provide technical support and customer service. Those businesses will be targeting dial-up users to switch to AFN Bronze.




The retailers will set their own rates for AFN Platinum, the new high speed service. JEFFNet, for example, is charging $79.95 per month.




In a recent demonstration of AFN Platinum's capabilities, Franell downloaded 40 Web pages before an identical computer set up with traditional dial-up service was able to download one site.




Franell said he did the demonstration to draw attention to the fact that about 1,000 customers in Ashland are still using dial-up Internet service.




Open Door Networks President and Owner Alan Oppenheimer, a retailer of AFN Internet service, said he mainly serves Macintosh users. Those users tend to share photographs and use graphics and video conferencing &

activities that require high speed Internet.




Oppenheimer said AFN Platinum will allow customers to see higher quality images at faster speeds.




AFN's newest retail partner, Rio Networks, is rolling out digital phone service in Ashland. AFN's increased bandwidth will allow for more reliable phone service, said Luke La Presta, vice president of sales and marketing for Rio Networks.




AFN is continuing to offer Internet service at — to 5 megabits per second that will be marketed under the name AFN Gold.