Most Ashland Fiber Network customers who want to keep the same Internet speed they have now will pay about $4 less each month under rate changes approved last week by the Ashland City Council.

Most Ashland Fiber Network customers who want to keep the same Internet speed they have now will pay about $4 less each month under rate changes approved last week by the Ashland City Council.

Customers who want to double their Internet speed will pay about $6 more per month.

The changes will go into effect in January 2011.

"We will see almost everyone get a faster package for a few dollars more or save money on the existing package they have," Ashland Information Technology Director Rob Lloyd said.

About 90 percent of AFN customers currently buy Gold level high-speed Internet service, which the city retails through high-tech businesses for an average price of $38.97 per month. Download speeds are up to 5 megabits per second, according to AFN.

The Gold level will disappear in January.

Customers can choose Choice level for an estimated $35 per month, and keep download speeds of up to 5 megabits per second. Or, they can double their speed with Preferred level service for an estimated $45 per month.

The actual retail rates may vary because retailers are not bound to the prices, according to an AFN staff memo to council members.

However, retailers will be in competition with each other as well as businesses such as Charter Communications that provide Internet service.

AFN also will directly retail service to customers, but has voluntarily set a cap of 165 customers for itself because of limited staffing, Lloyd said.

Since its inception in the late 1990s, AFN has retailed its services through other businesses in an effort to build up the local high-tech sector but has kept a smattering of direct customers.

AFN will offer 11 different Internet service levels, including a $9 per month Community Access level which will provide basic e-mail service and slow Internet speeds.

The $55 per month Family Entertainment level will have speeds of up to 15 megabits per second for people who like to watch television and movies via the Internet.

People who want speeds of up to 20 megabits per second in order to play online video games can get the Gamers service for a proposed $65 monthly charge.

AFN's previous system of naming service levels Bronze, Silver, Gold, Gold Plus and Platinum didn't help customers understand which service levels to pick to fit their needs.

The new broad range of service levels will allow residential and business customers to pick a service tailored to their needs, Lloyd said.

About 0.3 percent of AFN customers will face added fees because they use excessive bandwidth, he said.

To see a chart of proposed service levels and rates, visit www.dailytidings.com/afnrates.

The council on Dec. 7 also approved a new contract with the local business Ashland Home Net to continue providing television services over AFN's infrastructure.

Annual revenues to the city from the arrangement will increase from $120,000 to $200,000, Lloyd said.

Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.