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Connections light up on a computer network server.

JANESVILLE

Major internet providers in Janesville soon will have a new competitor in town.

It will take a couple of years to roll out, but Evansville, Indiana-based telecommunication and internet provider Metronet plans to build out and operate a new fiber-optic network that will serve both business and residential customers here with high-speed internet connections.

The company plans to begin this summer building out both underground and overhead fiber connections that will crisscross a couple of hundred miles in Janesville, it said in a release.

The company’s plans here are part of a bigger push by Metronet to create a Midwestern network that ties urban and suburban markets it serves in northern Illinois to similar markets in southeastern Minnesota.

Connection maps show Metronet plans to roll out fiber optic internet here would put Janesville and Rock County as the midway point between markets the company served around Chicago and near La Crosse in western Wisconsin.

Gordy LaChance, the city of Janesville’s IT director, told The Gazette the city has met with Metronet about its plans.

“It’s a totally private endeavor, but the way it’s being done will actually look to be a really good thing for Janesville, especially for small business and economic development,” LaChance said.

He said the company indicated that it fully funds its own internet infrastructure, including links to individual homes or businesses, then operates it as a provider without charging back that work to customers.

That’s different from some major competitors, such as Spectrum and AT&T, which hold a near monopoly locally on internet services.

Metronet as a competitor could spur price undercutting wars locally, at least initially, as the larger providers battle to hold onto local market share.

According to Metronets news release, its service provides what it calls affordable internet with fiber optic rather than copper cable that other providers use. The company advertises connections of up to 1,000 megabits per second—a gigabit—a rate it said slightly outpaces speeds offered by other, much larger internet providers.

And because Metronet's connections are fiber, they’re set to maintain a constant internet speed, which means local use of connections wouldn’t slow down based on gluts of demand throughout the day.

Only about 40% of homes in the continental United States have access to such connections, the company said.

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LaChance said the city of Janesville has its own proprietary fiber internet the city’s IT department has wired between City Hall and other city buildings around town. He said that makes it unlikely that the city would have any involvement in the rollout, and the city itself likely wouldn’t tap into the network.

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LaChance said the biggest potential selling point the city has heard from Metronet is that the company has a more nimble approach to how it builds out local internet networks.

He said Metronet indicates it is more willing than other, larger providers to branch out internet connections to small businesses that are located separate from the big providers’ main grids.

LaChance said he has already gotten multiple calls from local business operators who say they would like to tap into a fiber optic connection when it comes available because until now, they couldn’t get other, larger providers to commit to expanding infrastructure to run internet to their businesses.

Metronet said it plans the fiber rollout here this summer. The company said it will begin to notify businesses and residents in various neighborhoods within 30 days of running new fiber to allow new customers a chance to sign on.

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