By Randy Foster / New Bern Now
A Midwest company that provides “dream come true” inexpensive high-speed fiber optic internet services is expanding into North Carolina, with New Bern being one of its next additions.
The expansion is welcome news to many residents in New Bern, where Suddenlink has been the sole provider of high-speed cable internet.
Suddenlink has long had a reputation for spotty service in the New Bern area. It is ironic that in New Bern Now’s coverage of a Board of Aldermen meeting to discuss internet service via Facebook Live this morning, Suddenlink service cut out several times and forced us to tether the computer to a cell phone.
While the spotty service has been an issue for some time, it was exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic as schools and workplaces went online, only to be kicked offline at unpredictable and usually inconvenient times.
Suddenlink closed its New Bern office, forcing local residents to drive to Greenville if they need to conduct face-to-face business, or use UPS to turn in unused devices.
Enter Metro Fibernet, LLC (Metronet). The company is in the process of rolling out service in Fayetteville, is starting in Greenville, and is approaching New Bern and Jacksonville in its next round of expansion.
Reviews.org has an extensive review of Metro Fibernet that is generally favorable, but cautions that the low prices are promotional, and will rise over time.
“Metronet’s prices look like a dream come true,” according to the Reviews.com article. “We rarely see gig speeds priced this low, and even the prices for the 100, 200, and 500 Mbps plans are decent.
“Plus, those low prices come with a few perks:
“Metronet internet is fully fiber all the way to your house, meaning your download speeds should be more reliable. (And your upload speeds too.)
“You get unlimited data, so no more data overage charges or warnings.”
What makes 100 percent fiber so special?
According to Metronet, the answer is bandwidth. “A fiber-optic network uses tiny strands of glass, each as thin as a hair, to transmit beams of light over great distances. Those beams carry unprecedented amounts of data—much more than cable or DSL—directly to homes and businesses.”
The city of New Bern actually has little involvement in Metro Fibernet’s expansion. It was part of that company’s expansion plan and appears to be unrelated to recent efforts by City Hall to find a competitor to Suddenlink.
Suddenlink will remain the sole provider of cable TV services in New Bern, but with the advent of streaming services, cable TV is no longer the only option for high-speed internet.
That opens a window for other services to tap into the New Bern market — with or without approval from City Hall.
What MetroNet has proposed is entry into the New Bern market, with five free connections that City Hall can do with as it pleases, in exchange for a streamlined permit approval of infrastructure and city assistance when city infrastructure is required.
The Board of Aldermen, on a unanimous vote during a special meeting this morning, authorized City Manager Mark Stephens to negotiate and execute an agreement with Metronet for an FTTP (fiber to the premises) network.
Few details were provided by either Metronet or City Hall other than the resolution passed by the board, and requests for more information have not yet been answered. During discussions at today’s meeting, city officials admitted that the city would have little control over the rollout of the new service, and that some areas of the city could be bypassed entirely.
In Fayetteville, where Metronet started rolling out services in January, it included the neighboring cities of Vander, Eastover, Hope Mills, and Raeford, so it could be that the company could add Trent Woods, River Bend, the James City area, and maybe even Bridgeton, Fairfield Harbour, and Vanceboro.
Or maybe not.
The only thing that was specifically mentioned was that service would be provided to the Stanley White Recreation Center, once it is rebuilt, presumably at the corner of Neuse Boulevard and Third Avenue.
New Bern Mayor Dana Outlaw lauded the development, saying it is a major step toward the city’s future. The rest of what he said was hard to hear via Facebook Live, but it was probably similar to what Greenville Mayor P.J. Connelly said when his city was approached by Metronet.
“This announcement is a game-changer for the City of Greenville,” Connelly was quoted by WITN News Channel 7. “As our city continues to grow, it is vital that we are able to provide fast, reliable, and affordable fiber optic options. At no time has that been more apparent than during the COVID-19 pandemic as virtual learning and remote work made the need for increased broadband access even more apparent. Metronet’s high-speed fiber internet will increase technological capabilities for residents and businesses throughout the city and help Greenville thrive for years to come.”
Nothing was said about a timeline for the rollout in New Bern. The rollout in Greenville was set for spring 2021 — now.