Personal observations from CBAN Co-Founder Curtis Dean.
When Metronet first began their rapid expansion into cities in the Midwest (and later, seemingly, everywhere), I had a lot of questions about just HOW they were going to do it. For example, when they announced that they were planning to build FTTP to approximately 90% of Ames, Iowa (heading off growing momentum for a possible municipal project there), the price tag they mentioned publicly -$20 to $30 million - seemed low for a city with over 22,000 households. My concern was that they were going to have to cut major corners to build a network so inexpensively. To say the least, I was skeptical.
I also did a bit of research into Metronet projects in other cities, and my fears seemed to be justified as problems during the construction phase were reported. Lack of communication and shoddy restoration seemed to be common complaints.
Then Metronet announced further expansion into my own neck of the woods - the suburbs of Des Moines, Iowa. Urbandale, Johnston, Ankeny, Clive. And yes - my own sleepy 'burb of Grimes.
The interesting thing about Grimes is that it's already a hodgepodge of providers and technology. Mediacom has their DOCSIS 3.1 cable plant throughout the rapidly growing town of 14,000 (nearly double its 2010 Census count). CenturyLink is the incumbent telephone company and offers mostly DSL service of varying capabilities. On the high-growth areas of north Grimes, Mi-Fiber began building FTTP a few years ago.
And in my own humble neighborhood on the south side of Grimes? Well, the homes here were all built around 2014, and so when CenturyLink extended service, they put in fiber. That's one of the primary attractions I have for the area, and I've been a CenturyLink gigabit customer since I move here a few years ago. So when Metronet announced intentions to come to Grimes, I though they would bypass areas like mine that already had fiber.
Soon after the snow had melted, I got a letter in the mail from Metronet announcing that they were going to begin construction soon in my area. Surely that was just a mass mailer to all Grimes homes, I thought. Then a week later, a bright green postcard arrived with similar messaging. Were they REALLY going to overbuild another fiber provider?
I went online and entered my address on the Metronet site and, indeed, it told me that fiber was coming. I filled out a no-commitment form saying I was interested in services. I have been happy with my CenturyLink service, but one of their limitation is that they only offer two tiers: 100 Mbps and 1 Gig. 100 Mbps is less that I would like to have, and 1 Gig is more than I really need, but I chose the larger package anyway. Metronet's service tiers are 100 Mbps, 200 Mbps, 500 Mbps, and 1 Gig. If I switch, I might choose the 200 or 500 package to save a little money.
One morning in early April I noticed a cute little yard sign in front of my house saying tha construction was underway. (By the way, I'm totally stealing this idea for the next new fiber project I'm involved with!). A few days later, boring crews began moving into my neighborhood from the south. Last week, it was my turn to be a first hand witness to Metronet's construction. Here are a few snapshots of their work in my neighborhood and around my house.
And I have to say, I have been impressed. While I had concerns about them cutting corners, the work they did in back of my house was clean. The entire feeder network running in the ROW was bored in. They used underground vaults rather than above-ground pedestals like Mediacom and CenturyLink. They did an excellent job of restoration. Watching their boring crews, they even maneuvered large plates to cover the ground where their boring rig's treads were going to prevent ruts. They installed two ducts with their boring, one orange and one blue. Now all I need now is a drop!
I will be curious to see how they install drops in my area. For example, at my house they will have to go under a chain link fence, so I am assuming they will bore the drop in. Will they use vibratory trenching where they can or bore everything? Stay tuned.
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June 16, 2021
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Presented by the Community Broadband Action Network and curated by Curtis Dean.