- Indiana-based MetroNet plans to spend between $70 million and $100 million to build an ultra high-speed fiber-optic network in Lexington, KY at no cost to the city. Residents would be able to purchase the service just like they do with other cable or internet providers.
- The gigabit service would boost users' internet speeds from 16.2 megabits per second to 1,000 megabits per second. That means a 90-minute movie that currently takes 30 minutes for Lexington residents to download would only take 30 seconds.
- MetroNet hopes to begin construction in January and have the gigabit service operational to the first customers by summer 2018. It could take up to four years to wire the entire metro area.
MetroNet will have to bid on a franchise agreement before moving forward with fiber line construction. It will also have to work with Lexington's utility provider to put fiber-optic cable on some poles, and it will be buried in other areas. No plan has been revealed for which parts of the city will be wired first, although some are calling for equitable roll-outs so all the wealthy areas don't receive service first while lower-income areas have to wait for months or years.
The city has been working to get gigabit service for more than three years, largely in response to the city fielding constant complaints about and waging battles with the existing dominant cable and internet service providers. Mayor Jim Gray said residents want other options for reliable, low-cost and friendly service. He also has noted that gigabit service could attract more high-tech jobs to the area, as has happened in other cities such as Chattanooga, TN.
The fiber-optic network has great potential in Lexington. But some skeptics are cautious about proclaiming gigabit service success too early, especially in light of other service providers' troubled pasts. Google Fiber, for instance, was aggressively hyped but quickly ran into numerous snags and only moved into a handful of cities before announcing last fall that it would cease expansion and conduct layoffs. Many thought that would be the death of Google's gigabit service. But it survived on a rather zombie-like existence and this year began expanding service again into new markets.
Perhaps the Google Fiber story was a classic "too much, too soon" tale fueled by critics who claimed such speeds were unnecessary and the service was too expensive. But that sentiment appears to have cooled as more cities, including Lexington, are finding that many customers welcome gigabit service as competition for existing providers. Plus, the price of ultra high-speed fiber-optic service has ticked down since its inception, which also makes it more desirable.