When a local government and a private company comingle logos, palms and adulation to cheer a job-producing venture at a joint announcement, like the one Palm Coast government hosted with Evansville, Ind.-based Metronet at City Hall this afternoon, there’s generally been a deal, an incentive, a tax subsidy–something that brought the company in. Usually something that puts taxpayers on the hook. And the deals, in Flagler County anyway over the past many years, have tended to favor the company more than the public, or to have crashed, burned and embarrassed.
Not this time.
Metronet, a decade-and-a-half-old privately held company pledges to have the city’s entire 550 miles of residential streets wired with high-speed fiber optic within two years–starting at the end of this summer–making Palm Coast a “Gigabit City.” The service will provide speeds of up to 1 gig across town, with so-called “symmetrical” uploads and download speeds, rather than the typically slower upload speeds in most residential services. The speed compares with 100 to 400 mbps offered by other providers currently, who offer 1 gig only in select areas.
Metronet is getting no deal in return from the city. Only the assurance that the city will work with Metronet to ensure efficient permitting in what will be a $50 million construction project. But it’s looking at Palm Coast as a regional launching pad, with Bunnell and Flagler Beach in its sights.
“Collaboration is really the key,” John Cinelli, MetroNet’s CEO, said at the joint appearance with Mayor David Alfin and city and company leaders today. “We have had such a warm welcome here. That makes such a difference for us, helping smooth the path, helping remove obstacles, being business friendly.” Palm Coast had been one of three cities the MetroNet board was considering as the second Florida city where it would expand. It chose Palm Coast. He described the “warm embrace” the company got from Interim Manager Denise Bevan and her staff.
“It took us approximately six months to get to yes,” Jason DeLorenzo, the city’s development director who shepherded the project, said. “He’s had other communities that took 18 or 22 months to get to yes.”
It started in late June or early July when Eddie Massengale, the company’s director of business development, was scouting new cities for MetroNet’s expansion. (He’s always lived in Chattanooga, a gig city that attracted Volkswagen and Amazon, among others, along with a culture of remote work.) He was looking for a new city to branch out from Tallahassee, currently metroNet’s only Florida territory. “When I reached out to the city, it becomes a whole nother game with the city: is the city receptive? Are they willing to work with you? We have a statewide franchise, so we could come in and pull permits and build fiber. But with the operation of a city, we go from a five year build-out to a two-year build-out.”
Massengale placed the call to Palm Coast. It went to City Clerk Virginia Smith, who relayed it to Jason DeLorenzo. He handled the rest. There was a zoom meeting by way of an introduction. MetroNet provided references. The city background-checked the company, which has some 250,000 customers in 14 states, checked references in other communities, “had positive feedback,” DeLorenzo said, and so scheduled another meeting to understand their process. From that point on, it was a matter of details.
In that regard, there was something the city provided: the assurance of smooth service from its own end, and what could be interpreted as custom-made, or bulk, permitting. “We worked on a process with them. How they’re going to build is not generally how we handle a right of way permit,” DeLorenzo said. “Usually a right of way permit is a couple of thousand feet, not an entire neighborhood.”
MetroNet will submit a permit application for 300 to 500 homes in a group, or the equivalent of 23,000 linear feet per permit. “So we worked with them on process, we worked with them on what our inspections will look like, and those inspections are handled by the engineering department, and we worked on protecting the citizens and the right of way damage by having a bond in place during the construction.”
The broadband lines will be buried in place, and overhead in others. The company has secured an agreement with Florida Power and Light to use its infrastructure–its poles–as cable-carriers. MetroNet’s original “hut” or switching station will be co-located with Water Treatment Plant 1 on Utility Drive–the city will generate some income from that lease–so initial connections will branch out from there.
There was an option for some profit sharing, with money flowing from the company to the city. “We decided that we didn’t want to go that route as a partnership because we already have other providers in the community, even though this service is faster than any provider we have as far as I know,” DeLorenzo said. “But it was more important to be able to deliver fiber directly to the citizens than to make money on the project.”
The city has had its own broadband operation for years–Fibernet, which has at times struggled to assert itself and was never meant to serve residential areas–only businesses and other governments, such as the school board, the clerk of court, and so on. Palm Coast Internet is a reseller, using the network.
Fibernet and MetroNet will not be competing. “Obviously this is a huge opportunity for the city, a great economic development booster,” Doug Aikins, the city’s information technology director, said today. “As far as Fibernet goes, it allows us to better focus our offerings to municipalities. There’s probably a lot we can do to partner with Flagler County and other municipalities, that’s probably what our focus is going to be moving forward.”
Cinelli said the company currently offers a $50 plan for 100mb, and, as a promotion–which suggests the price eventually rises–$59 to $69 for 1gb. “The goal is to provide choice and competition, right? And whoever provides the best service to the end user is the person who wins,” Cinelli said.
As for 5G, Cinelli described it as “complementary” to the broadband infrastructure, not something that would displace it or make it obsolete–especially since 5G depends on a solid fiber infrastructure for connectivity. “Because you know, the need for bandwidth keeps doubling and doubling and doubling and doubling,” Cinelli said. “wireline is always the best way to deliver that kind of bandwidth. And we’re talking about fiber and light. The amount of bandwidth you can send over that is unbelievable.”
Alfin, of course, was basking in the glow of that light to come. “I can tell you without reservation, that this truly is a defining moments in the history of our city of Palm Coast,” he said at the beginning of the 15-minute joint announcement, organized with
Residents and businesses interested in MetroNet services may visit MetroNetInc.com/iwantfiber to indicate interest and to receive updates on construction. MetroNet also has plans to establish a retail storefront in Palm Coast for customers to have direct access to customer service and sales. Cinelli said the company’s local, permanent workforce will be around 25 employees, more during the construction phase.
Keep Flagler Beautiful says
It would be so great if our area could become a silicon city, like Austin. It would open us up to tremendous investment and new jobs from industries of the future.
The dude says
It sure would.
Only this area doesn’t have the right demographics or politics to make that happen.
Two big internet connectivity announcements in as many months. First Charter, now this.
Tina Olive says
We went thru Metro net in Fishers Ind….some were happy some were not….Since they will be trenching in the front yards down along the streets and up to the houses my concern is all the irrigation systems in the city….Alot more than in Indiana….I’m sure they will be on top of fixing all the broken pipes that will occur when trenching……Of course they guaranteed a certain price for everyone at the beginning….that didn’t last too long……rates went up….people felt ripped off……Sure it helps during storms because it’s a buried cable and not on the roof……but yea its gonna be a hassle…..
Tina olive says
And a sideline to my previous comment….My husband was a property manager in fishers In so he had to deal with MULTIPLE neighborhoods during Metro net installs….broken irrigation, water lines, cable lines, gas lines, it took 6 months …with monthly calls to the company for the refunds….to get the check….if u own an irrigation company start hiring…….
Willy Boy says
High speed Internet, and slow speed streets.
AT&T is expanding its fiber network throughout palm coast, bunnell, Flagler beach, and surrounding areas right now. You can get 1g speeds downstream and up and will have 5g capability in the future.
However, the expansion is only to newly developing neighborhoods. AT&T has no plans to provide upgrades to the older underserved neighborhoods…..ex: the fiber runs along main roads but then switches back to wire into the older neighborhoods. Believe me, we’ve inquired about this often.
Actually fiber is being brought into older neighborhoods now,parts of the C section are ready and being installed in customer’s houses also the E section B section and the conduit and fiber is is being run in pretty much all other sections also. AT&T technicians are doing the installs. If you see an AT&T technician in your area stop and ask them about the fiber. We will be more than happy to let you know if it’s available in your section yet or maybe give you an idea how long
Still, AT&T is not able to offer 100% FIBER TO THE HOME, it will still be copper cable based and the up and down speeds WILL NOT be symmetrical!
Jane Gentile-Youd says
Can’t fool me got that right. Nothing for Original Plantation Bay
C’mon man says
If you have all these problems in plantation bay then maybe you should move
Wonderful. Thank you.
Fiber optic systems are the future. Many large cities already have fiber optic cables in place, some have had them for years now. It is great news to hear that Palm Coast will soon be converted to fiber optic cables in every neighborhood. With all of the forward thinking moves the city has made recently, especially the Med-Nex development that is primed to mark our city as one of the primary education hubs for various medical related careers, I applaud this news and welcome the addition of this technology infrastructure.
The old fogies in this town probably can’t wrap their brain around just how significant this is for the future of Palm Coast/Flagler. They’re too busy shouting at the cable TV (most certainly Fox & Friends) about Pelosi’s socialist agenda.
This will transform Palm Coast! This is almost the equivalent of a city winning the Power Ball. Out of just dumb, stupid luck (maybe a friend of a friend, we’ll never really know), MetroNet chose Palm Coast. Hell it might’ve even been DeShithead himself that coerced them our way. Little surprised he hasn’t at least stepped his pudgy ass up to a podium fulla microphones showing off his trophy wife in the background to take full credit (hope she gets better BTW).
Make no mistake… MetroNet’s getting some help from black and brown people that ran out the racist masogynistic deplorable seditionists in Nov 2020 to get this done, likely despite a majority of MetroNet shareholders voting to the contrary. It’s part of the whole point of the Infrastructure Plan folks. I can guaran-goddam-tee you this wouldn’t be happening without that. We need smarter more informed people. We need better access to better information and more sources for that information. This is how you do it.
This will bring people from all over the country to Flagler County (as if they’re not coming in droves already). Like it or not, this county will catapult into the hundreds of thousands in a relatively short period of time now. But wasn’t that all part of the master plan anyways? It’s still rediculously far better than Orlando, Daytona, Jacksonville and will continue to be. Under the hood there are other things happening in the county to support the infrastructure for this internet infrastructure – data centers, internet backbone connections, etc. We will find that there will now be internet-based businesses Flocking to Flagler. It’s inevitable. This lil’ ole’ $50m changes everything! Get ready for the ride. I speak not from my buttocks… I moved to Flagler a few years back to telework, to drive periodically to a corporate office in Jacksonville, to drive 5 minutes to a beach, to drive 5 minutes to a Walmart, Home Depot, China King, an hour to a major international airport. This is why the younger generation is here and will now come here even more.
Palm Coast is a GREAT place to be young and old. It will now be even greater because of this. We ALL get to benefit – black, brown, green, stupid, smart, rich, poor, happy, angry.
I find your remarks par for the course. You have insulted a great majority of folks that live here. I can guarantee just what type if “person” you are.
Meanwhile, I need people to look up MetroNet Inc reviews from Tallahassee, FL, not good. Check before you jump.
This is is really great and I’m happy, for all of us. But Palm Coast doesn’t have a workforce to support tech workers who will want local amenities and young people aren’t going to start flocking here because of our incredibly amazing download speeds.
This is an opportunity. One that will require real leadership to make into something. We don’t exactly have leadership here either.
John, BHN says
AT&T and Charter (formerly Bright House) already have fiber on evety major road in town, with fiber on every residential street except for thinly-populated areas (call it 90% coverage to each street, but not always sidewslk-to-house.) There isn’t a business in town that can’t get fiber. Spending public money to put new fiber in ground in market-poor areas is excessive and offers marginal benefit. City is giving a competetive edge to an out-of-state company because of lofty public promises. Our IT infrastructure isn’t holding us back; work force development is a much bigger need.
Eat More Fiber says
Did you even read the article? No public money is being spent. The opposite actually. City’s going to rake in with permitting fees.
Then there’s a huge difference between an underpaired fiber cable in the ground twenty feet away (ref the Fibernet) and what MetroNet will be doing. There isn’t a single fiber to premise business circuit that can be bought in this town for less than $500/mo after all the taxes and fees for some tiny bandwidth. And I’m not talking about that shared junk that Palm Coast Flagler internet peddles to unsuspecting suckers. AT&T, Spectrum fiber each at least $1000/mo. for a gig fiber if an NFP. Everyone else $1500+.
Christopher Todd Lemke says
What’s the point? Just more centralization and control of information? The real resource is already being built with the Starlink constellation. Yes, it will offer very high speeds and very low latency. Why do all of this infrastructure work when a much better solution is here now, or just around the corner? It’s about centralization of power, as it always is. When asked about government monitoring if internet traffic with Starlink, Elon Musk said that they could basically shake their fist at the sky. MetroNet and the city are creating a need where there really isn’t one. We must continue to look for better solutions than this, which will result in a massive financial cost and an unnecessary environmental disruption.