Fayette County

17,000 Lexington homes get access to high-speed internet. But it hasn’t all been smooth.

MetroNet installs fiber-optic lines in Lexington neighborhood

MetroNet buried the fiber-optic lines for high-speed internet in a Lexington neighborhood off Paris Pike in October.
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MetroNet buried the fiber-optic lines for high-speed internet in a Lexington neighborhood off Paris Pike in October.

The city’s high-speed internet provider has installed fiber-optic cable to 17,000 households and 2,000 businesses since January 2018.

“We are on track to have it completed by the end of 2020,” Darrick Zucco, MetroNet vice president and general manager, told the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council Environmental Quality and Public Works Committee during a Tuesday meeting.

Within the next 120 days, fiber-optic installation will begin in other areas such as Beaumont and Chevy Chase, said Zucco. Construction will begin this summer on the city’s west side with some of its largest neighborhoods — Masterson Station and McConnell’s Trace.

The company has already installed 1 million miles of fiber-optic cable or roughly one-fourth of the more than 4.4 million miles needed to wire the urban service area.

Much of the area currently with MetroNet service is between Richmond and Winchester roads and along Interstate 75. Several neighborhoods between Winchester and Old Paris roads also have MetroNet.

MetroNet has improved its website (https://construction.metronetinc.com) so Lexington residents can put in an address and determine when services will be available, company officials said during Tuesday’s meeting.

MetroNet, an Evansville-based company, was given a franchise to provide high-speed internet to homes and businesses inside Lexington’s urban service boundary in October 2017.

City officials have said that once MetroNet is fully in place in 2020, Lexington will be the largest “Gigabit” city in the country. Gigabit speed moves data at 1,000 megabits per second. Lexington’s average internet speed is 16.2 megabits per second, according to some studies.

MetroNet must install fiber-optic cables throughout the city to make high-speed internet, phone and cable services available. For newer neighborhoods with buried utility lines, MetroNet contractors must dig in yards and the right-of-way. In older neighborhoods, MetroNet is adding fiber-optic cable to utility poles.

A sign for MetroNet construction was placed at the entrance to the subdivision at Old Todds Road and Chelsea Woods Way in Lexington. MetroNet is is installing fiber-optic internet, cable and phone service in Lexington. Charles Bertram cbertram@herald-leader.com

The installation has not always been smooth , particularly in neighborhoods where MetroNet contractors first started digging in January 2018.

Through an open records request, the Herald-Leader obtained 40 complaints about MetroNet contractors from January to September 2018.

Those complaints included contractors failing to shut gates or cutting sewer and water lines, resulting in the destruction of driveways and basements. Those 40 MetroNet complaints did not include calls to the city’s 311 line — its general complaint and service request line.

Still, during that same nine-month time period, the city received more than 400 complaints about Spectrum, the city’s dominant cable service provider. Many of those 400 complaints were follow-ups to previous complaints about the cable giant.

Councilman Preston Worley, whose 7th council district includes many of MetroNet’s first neighborhoods, such as Andover Forest, has been critical in the past of MetroNet’s slow response to homeowners’ complaints. Some issues have been serious, such as sewage backing up in people’s homes as a result of cut sewer and water lines.

Worley said MetroNet has made strides in its communication outreach but not enough.

“I am glad that (MetroNet) is leaving the 7th District for the most part,” Worley said. “As we make improvements, we slide back. Please continue to respect our constituents and their homes.”

MetroNet said it has multiple ways of communicating — including mailed letters and postcardsand yard signs —with homeowners before construction.

There is also a construction complaint system on MetroNet’s website for homeowners.

“We have a 100 percent response rate within 24 hours and a 55 percent completion rate within 24 hours,” said Tana Williamson, market assistant for MetroNet.

No taxpayer dollars have been spent to bring MetroNet to Lexington. MetroNet has said it will likely spend more than $70 million to wire Kentucky’s second-largest city. Meanwhile, Louisville is still struggling to find a way to get high-speed internet. Google Fiber announced in February it was abandoning its project in Louisville after fiber installation problems.

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Beth Musgrave has covered government and politics for the Herald-Leader for more than a decade. A graduate of Northwestern University, she has worked as a reporter in Kentucky, Indiana, Mississippi, Illinois and Washington D.C.