The Lexington Council voted unanimously Thursday to give a 10-year cable franchise agreement to MetroNet to provide cable, high-speed internet and phone services to Lexington.
The Lexington-Urban County Council approved the new cable franchise at its Thursday night meeting.
MetroNet officials have said they plan to spend between $70 and $100 million over the next three to four years to build a fiberoptic cable network capable of delivering gigabit speed. Gigabit speed is equivalent to moving data at 1,000 megabits per second. Lexington’s average internet speed is 16.2 megabits per second, according to some studies.
Lexington Mayor Jim Gray has pushed for Lexington to become a “gig” city, saying it was necessary to keep and attract businesses. MetroNet will also provide television services, bringing more competition to the market. The city has been at loggerheads with Spectrum, its largest cable provider, over poor customer service and other issues for more than a year.
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There will be no up-front cost to the city, city officials have said.
MetroNet’s subcontractors ran into problems with Indiana utility regulators and the Indiana Attorney General after more than 20 gas lines were ruptured by those subcontractors in three cities north of Indianapolis earlier this year.
Councilman Richard Moloney asked during Thursday’s meeting if the city was confident that similar problems would not occur in Lexington. Planning Commissioner Derek Paulsen said the city regulates utilities working in the public right-of-way. In Indiana, cities cannot regulate utilities working in the right-of-the-way.
“All the right-of-way work is overseen and inspected,” Paulsen said. MetroNet has said they will use Kentucky Utility poles to wire most of the city, and it’s likely that few fiberoptic cables will be buried. “They have to call before they dig, it’s the law.”
Councilman Kevin Stinnett said he wanted MetroNet to assure the council and the public that MetroNet would not have similar problems in Kentucky.
John Campbell, a vice president and general counsel for MetroNet, told the council the Evansville-based company has made changes to its safety program since the incidents in Indiana.
“We have put together a comprehensive underground safety program,” Campbell said. “We are confident that we can come to Lexington and safely construct in the right-of-way.”
MetroNet officials have said they hope to begin initial work in January if the weather cooperates. The company has not yet said which area of the city will be wired first. In November, company officials said it was possible that the first customers could start receiving service as early as summer 2018.