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Batavia expects no trouble with MetroNet fiber optic installation

MetroNet has ‘good track record’ in Illinois

BATAVIA – City officials anticipate no problems with the coming installation of a new fiber optic cable service in Batavia, which will include excavation and underground boring in some areas.

The recent announcement that Indiana-based MetroNet will become a third competitor in the internet, television and land-line telephone service market in Batavia has generated considerable interest from tech-savvy consumers.

However, both the city of Batavia and the Kane County Chronicle received questions and comments from residents directing attention to numerous gas line strikes in three Indiana communities by contractors doing installation work for MetroNet.

The company allegedly ruptured gas lines in the adjacent communities of Fishers, Carmel and Westfield, located north of Indianapolis, sparking an investigation by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.

However, Batavia officials do not believe MetroNet’s troubles in Indiana will carry over here.

“I have zero concerns,” Batavia Public Works Director Gary Holm said, noting that MetroNet installation contractors will be required to follow state law establishing the protocols for JULIE, the Joint Utility Locating Information for Excavators program.

MetroNet has franchises in downstate Illinois communities, including Bloomington-Normal, and has been expanding into Oswego, Montgomery and North Aurora.

“We really don’t have any concerns based on their track record,” Holm said of MetroNet.

Batavia City Administrator Laura Newman agreed, pointing to the company’s successful expansion in the state.

“They have a good track record with municipalities here in Illinois,” Newman said.

The Batavia City Council approved a franchise agreement with MetroNet on Sept. 5. Aldermen heard from Kathy Scheller, MetroNet business development manager, who touted the firm’s dedicated fiber optic cable lines and gigabit speed internet.

Scheller did not respond directly to an inquiry from the Chronicle concerning the gas line strikes in Indiana or use of directional boring, but instead offered a statement.

“MetroNet has successfully installed a world-class fiber optic infrastructure in several communities in Illinois, and we constantly train our associates and contractors to maintain our safe and respected practices,” Scheller wrote.

“We will work closely with the city of Batavia, Nicor and the Batavia Public Works Department throughout the entire process,” Scheller continued. “Communication to and from the community is very important to us, and part of everything we do. We are committed to providing the service the community expects, and building in a responsible manner.”

MetroNet will begin installation of its fiber optic network in Batavia this fall and will phase in service starting early next year as the work proceeds, with the entire community expected to be online in two or perhaps two-and-a-half years.

The franchise agreement is similar to those the city already has in place with service providers AT&T and Comcast. The city will collect a franchise fee equal to 5 percent of MetroNet’s gross revenues.

Under the agreement, MetroNet will attach its fiber optic cables to utility poles in some neighborhoods, and install them underground in those areas where the power lines are buried.

Scheller had said previously that for underground lines, directional boring will be used, minimizing the need for excavation.

Holm explained that a receiving pit would be dug in the public right-of-way, and then equipment would bore horizontally along the utility line for up to 500 feet before digging another pit.

When work gets underway in specific neighborhoods, MetroNet will alert residents with letters, post cards, signs and website announcements.

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