Year Later, MetroNet Grows Footprint In Bloomington-Normal | WGLT

Year Later, MetroNet Grows Footprint In Bloomington-Normal

Aug 8, 2017

More than 1,000 Bloomington-Normal homes have already signed up for MetroNet, with 12,000 residences and businesses ready for installation, a company spokesperson said.

Indiana-based MetroNet has been running fiber-optic lines for Internet and TV service through Bloomington-Normal neighborhoods since last fall—the first real competition to Comcast in the market. Neighborhoods that are already connected are mostly on Bloomington’s east side and north Normal, according to MetroNet’s construction map. Construction is underway in many other neighborhoods—although Bloomington’s west side appears to still be on the waiting list.

To date, 40 percent of MetroNet’s build area in Bloomington-Normal is ready for installation, meaning those 12,000 “passed” homes and businesses are ready to connect, said MetroNet spokesperson Kathy Scheller, who works in external affairs and business development.

MetroNet's current construction map. Green is completed, yellow is under construction, blue is future construction.
Credit MetroNet

You may have seen little construction flags popping up outside your home, indicating that MetroNet is preparing to run lines through your neighborhood.

“It’s going very well,” Scheller said on GLT’s Sound Ideas. “This is a multimillion dollar investment on our part. It’s a big deployment. That type of deployment is very arduous and we’re very busy. Our network engineers have done a great job of designing the community. We continue to follow that design on this massive scope of work.”

While concerns about Bloomington’s west side remain, MetroNet appears to have avoided making many enemies in the past year. A GLT check with the City of Bloomington, Town of Normal, the Illinois Commerce Commission, and the Illinois attorney general’s office turned up no major recent complaints from consumers about the installation, construction, or the service itself.

“MetroNet has had no more issues than any other utility doing similar work,” said Town of Normal spokesperson Dan Irvin. “Yes, they have cut a couple of other lines and drilled through a sewer or two, much like other utilities have done in the past. Nothing out of the ordinary or routine. The repair is the utility’s responsibility, and MetroNet has been expeditious about correcting any errors.”

When asked if MetroNet's crews have accidentally cut or disrupted Comcast's own infrastructure in Bloomington-Normal, a Comcast spokesperson confirmed "this has happened."

“From time to time, other companies doing work in the vicinity of our network have caused damage and occasionally outages. When this happens, our No. 1 priority is to restore service as quickly as possible," said Comcast spokesperson Amanda Vallejo.

“Our goal is to prevent damage from happening in the first place through proper planning," she added. "Our hope is that other service providers take the same care to prevent damage that can impact service–regardless of the provider or kind of service.”

Scheller said MetroNet "stresses the need to protect others’ facilities as we deploy our fiber network."

"This includes weekly meetings with contractors, close coordination with utility locators, insistence on visibly locating existing utilities we need to cross or closely parallel, and daily monitoring of contractor compliance with company directives and safety requirements.

"Despite these best efforts it is nearly impossible to build millions of feet of new infrastructure in congested rights of way without any incidents," she added. "If an incident occurs, we do a thorough and timely investigation to determine responsibility. If it would be our responsibility, we would take appropriate action."

West-Side Service

Concerns about MetroNet’s plans for Bloomington’s west side still linger. The company faced criticism last fall after its initial coverage map indicated service only on the community’s wealthier east side. MetroNet met with local officials and later released a revised coverage map with expanded services in more neighborhoods.

“I think that’s a serious problem,” Mayor Tari Renner said. “They have been willing to at least talk to us, so we’ll see where that goes.”

To date, it appears MetroNet is only building on Bloomington’s central and east sides, he said, with not much visible progress on west side.

“That’s what we’re having trouble with,” Renner said.

Bloomington-Normal was the first market in Illinois where MetroNet released an intended coverage map like it did last year, Scheller said. The criticism “came about because of a history that was in place there, that we were going to follow suit” in excluding the west side, she said.

“I’m happy to report that we met with city officials, the aldermen from that area, as well as the mayor, and continue to come up with amicable solutions to be sure that residents on the west side of Bloomington will have coverage as well,” Scheller said.

You can also listen to GLT's full story on MetroNet:

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