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5 Years Later: How MetroNet's B-N Footprint Has Grown

MetroNet sign
Ryan Denham
MetroNet began offering all-fiber, high-speed internet in Bloomington-Normal in 2016. The Indiana-based company faced criticism when initial service maps left out much of Bloomington's west side. Five years later, nearly every square mile of the Twin Cities has access to gigabit-speed connection.

After five years in Bloomington-Normal, MetroNet says it has made good on promises to offer high-speed internet service in virtually every corner of town.

There were initial community concerns about a digital divide and when the Indiana-based company would build out Bloomington’s west side that was largely omitted from original service maps. Those maps were amended weeks later.

MetroNet - Original Service Map
The Bloomington-Normal service map issues by MetroNet on Sept. 8, 2021

Keith Leonhardt, vice president of communications for MetroNet, said the intention was never to leave certain neighborhoods underserved.

“We kind of have a ‘have to start somewhere’ model that oftentimes is influenced by the construction conditions where we can get access to building to connect to customers the quickest,” Leonhardt said.

“That's, I'm guessing, what was really reflected in the initial maps for Bloomington-Normal’s project, as well. But to look at it now, we serve almost every square foot of the Bloomington-Normal market.”

Leonhardt said, now, the only areas MetroNet is currently not serving are those that are under development or privately owned.

“We've shifted away from the larger city construction project, because it's complete,” Leonhardt said. “Now, we're really following the growth of Bloomington and Normal themselves as they develop new neighborhoods or extend existing neighborhoods and build new homes there.”

Screenshot 2021-06-03 124855.png
MetroNet's updated Bloomington-Normal service maps, as of June 3, 2021.

Leonhardt said the Twin Cities are now considered “Gigabit Cities,” meaning residents have access to an all-fiber network with unlimited bandwidth and gigabit speeds.

That’s a selling point for remote workers and tech-based companies. Leonhardt said it’s “rarefied air” that less than 20% of U.S. residents have access to.

The next step in MetroNet’s expansion, he said, is growing into smaller surrounding communities.

“The communities that we target largely have one primary original phone provider that maybe has grown into providing broadband services, and then maybe another cable provider that might have come in back in the '80s or '90s to build infrastructure,” Leonhardt said.

“These are companies that are striving to provide good service and add value to their customers as well. But their infrastructure is aging. There's a limited amount of ways that you can maximize the infrastructure that has core components that are based in copper and electrical signals.”

At the same time, Leonhardt said, households are increasing their requirements to be online — adding new smart devices, security systems, video streaming, and learning or working from home.

Leonhardt declined to name which McLean County communities could be next for MetroNet expansion, citing the sensitivity of competitive information. But he said there’s nationwide demand for all-fiber service, as public officials, schools and businesses aim to bridge the digital divide.

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