As the city looks to lay new fiber infrastructure in partnership with Axia, a Canada-based fiber infrastructure company, internet service providers already operating in Bloomington will follow their own visions of a well-connected city.
National broadband companies Comcast and AT&T have already made changes to their Bloomington networks ahead of any city-driven installation. Whether it’s freshly lain fiber or a new technology that runs information across existing copper cables, both companies have announced gigabit speeds in Bloomington. The advances are in addition to Monroe County provider Smithville Fiber’s ongoing efforts to expand its fiber gigabit service across the city, a neighborhood at a time.
“There was a rush to fiber. When we were rolling out fiber in Bloomington and Columbus and other markets, it was the greatest thing. But now, people look at the dollar and are conscientious,” said Cullen McCarty, executive vice president of Smithville.
“The mayor believes we can just put fiber out there and people will go get it,” he said. “No. That’s not happening now. That’s the business reality of it.”
Mayor John Hamilton selected Axia as the city’s preferred provider in December 2016. He cited three aspects of the data management company’s profile that fit his vision, the first of which addresses the “citywide” portion of the proposed fiber network.
A citywide internet infrastructure is not citywide if it isn’t available to all, but identifying where one company’s grasp outreaches another’s is difficult. AT&T, Comcast and Smithville all deferred on producing a map of existing and targeted expansion areas for this series, claiming the knowledge is proprietary information in a competitive environment. And though none were chosen as the city’s provider, each has its own take on how to tackle Bloomington’s new information super highway.
Smithville introduced its fiber infrastructure after procuring a $90 million loan in 2008. It now operates 3,000 miles of fiber across 16 counties. Smithville began laying gigabit residential fiber in Bloomington with the Blue Ridge neighborhood in 2015 and has since located across Bloomington in both businesses and residences. According to Darby McCarty, CEO of Smithville, the company has spent $5 million to $15 million over 10 years to bring fiber to parts of Bloomington.