DeKalb County residents want more options when it comes to internet providers, and soon they might have them.
Indiana-based fiber-optic internet, TV and phone service provider Metronet has been in talks with DeKalb and Sycamore city officials to begin serving the area.
Kim Roberts lives in Sycamore near North Grove and feels as though she has few options.
“It’s unreliable,” Roberts said of her provider. “You can barely get email; forget doing anything like Netflix.”
Many providers continue to use copper cables to transmit service, but fiber-optic cables, which are made of glass fibers, can offer faster, more reliable connections.
Although DeKalb information technology director Marc Thorson said city officials are not aware of any “substantial quality of service issues” with the major local players, Frontier and Comcast, he added the city welcomes opportunities to benefit its residents, businesses and visitors.
More information about Metronet was presented at the DeKalb Committee of the Whole meeting Monday night.
Sycamore City Manager Brian Gregory echoed Thorson’s sentiments and said residents have expressed interest in additional options for internet providers.
“Part of that is they’re obviously interested as consumers in the best value and lowest cost,” Gregory said.
A nonexclusive franchise agreement with Metronet likely will come before the Sycamore City Council in April, Gregory said.
Kathy M. Scheller, a member of Metronet’s external affairs division, gave a pitch to the Sycamore City Council on Feb. 19. Scheller explained that the fiber-optic company grew across Indiana before spreading to communities such as Plainfield and Oswego. It does not require contracts because company officials have faith that customers will stick with the product, and Metronet’s pricing is competitive, Scheller said.
“We believe competition is good for your residents,” Scheller said. “This is the future.”
Those who sign up can have fiber-optic cables installed directly to their homes, which can allow them to download a complete movie to their computers in less than two minutes, Scheller said. Installation fees are minimal and based upon users’ credit ratings, she added.
Network engineers design communities before any fiber-optic cables are installed, and signs are placed on the lawns of residents who might be affected, Scheller said. The cables are installed redundantly, meaning the company can switch service to other nearby cables quickly if a connection fails.
Metronet advertises gigabit internet starting at $69.95 a month on its website, but William Finney thinks the gold standard of fiber-optic cables to homes costs too much.
Finney is the manager of business development for AirCell, a small residential internet provider that got its start in Fairdale as part of the 2015 tornado recovery effort. It now has subscribers in Kirkland and Hinckley, as well.
The company provides access to high-quality broadband at a reasonable price using fiber optics, Finney said. It has about 100 customers and wants to double or triple that number within the year. Finney said AirCell also is planning to construct another tower in Malta or Shabbona.
One hundred megabytes per second costs $89.99, according to its site. For context, there are 1,000 megabytes in a gigabyte, and eight gigabits to a gigabyte. One hundred megabytes equals 0.8 gigabits.
Frontier advertises a $25-a-month plan with a maximum speed of 12 megabytes a second. A plan that also includes voice service and speeds as fast as 24 megabytes a second is listed as $61.99 a month.
Scheller said a fiber-optic connection also can increase a home’s value by 3 percent, decrease buffering and offer users an extra level of protection against outages.
Some residents are eager for a change.
“I’m not trying to knock Frontier,” Roberts said. “I understand they have limited funds. I just wish there was that one little switch we could flip and get it done better.”
It’s not clear how far Metronet connections will be able to stretch in the area, if only DeKalb and Sycamore officials are in talks with the company.