Fiber internet company MetroNet is expected to have its first New Bern customers online in late September or early October, according to Kris Smith, the company’s director of government affairs.
According to Smith, MetroNet is about one-third away from installing fiber in the New Bern area. Installation began in November 2021 and is expected to take two years.
Originally set for late summer, Smith acknowledged the expected date for customers to be online was slightly delayed.
“We’re aiming for the end of this month, maybe the first of October, so that’s been pushed a bit,” Smith said.
According to Smith, approximately 200,000 feet of underground fiber cable has been installed in the New Bern area. She said the installation of the overhead cable started in the last month. The fiber installation follows existing utilities and consists of approximately 50% underground work and 50% aerial work, she explained.
As of Sept. 6, nearly 29,000 feet of aerial fiber had been installed in New Bern, Smith said.
“We had a bit of a slower start than expected, but it was just a permission issue,” she commented. “We are still on target and things are going very well.”
Smith said the aerial work should go quickly.
“You’ll see bucket trucks, you’ll see gentlemen starting at one end of the street and in an hour or two they’ll be almost done at the other end,” she explained.
Smith said MetroNet is currently working in the Pembroke community of New Bern, between Aycock and Chestnut avenues.
“One of the things we’re most excited about is that we had over 1,000 presales the last time I checked. We’re getting a huge response from the City of New Bern and we’re really excited about it,” Smith said.
Locally, MetroNet currently offers 100 megabyte to 1 gigabyte Internet service, with prices ranging from $50 to $90 per month. Fiber phone service is also offered for $10 per month.
Although MetroNet originally planned to offer IPTV as part of its New Bern service offering, that option will no longer be available, according to Smith. IPTV allows viewers to receive their broadcast signal through an internet connection, as opposed to a rooftop antenna, satellite dish, or fiber optic cable.
Metronet’s local service area will extend north along Highway 43 to Washington Post Road, west on Highway 17 just past River Bend and as far south as Havelock. The company will also install in Trent Woods and the James City, Pembroke and Bryce’s Creek areas.
A map showing the installation progress can be viewed at https://construction.metronetinc.com/l/New_BernNC.
Residents can expect to receive postcards seven to 14 days before construction with information on how to contact MetroNet. The final stage of public information will consist of individual construction signs and neighborhood entrance signs announcing that the constriction is imminent.
Internet-related complaints prompted city to seek competitive service
The MetroNet project is the culmination of months of work by the city to bring in a local competitor for the region’s main internet service provider, Suddenlink. Last August, Mayor Dana Outlaw noted that some areas of the city have very little internet service. At the time, he said the City of New Bern received more than 200 complaints about Suddenlink via an email created specifically for this purpose.
“We are happy to see competition in New Bern… We look forward to a much better Internet system,” he commented.
In April 2021, the New Bern Board of Aldermen approved a request for the city to negotiate and execute an agreement with MetroNet allowing the parties to resolve permission issues, easement plans and questions regarding what MetroNet would deliver in the area. Three months later, the City of New Bern created a $7.2 million project fund to facilitate the infrastructure work needed for MetroNet to bring its services to New Bern. The 2021 Make Ready Public Infrastructure for Broadband Service Providers project fund was approved by the Board of Directors at its July 27, 2021 meeting.
According to Charlie Bauschard, Director of Utilities, the installation work will have the greatest impact on the city’s utilities and public works operations and will potentially affect all public easements, rights-of-way and private land parcels in the city.
“They (MetroNet) want to move fast, they want to install the project and get out of here and connect customers as fast as possible,” Bauschard said.