Smithville sets sight on further Bloomington growth, explores residential customer demand options

Smithville adopts Google Fiber model to explore, plan possible Bloomington expansion into more than 1,600 area homes in the city’s southeast area. New expansion is in addition to a 1,000-home expansion previously announced.

BLOOMINGTON (Indiana) – Following its earlier announcement in August to build new fiber networks in Winslow Farm, Lakes Neighborhood and other areas of Bloomington, Smithville is now considering options to expand its nationally recognized fiber service further into a possible 1,660 homes in southeast part of the city (see map below). This new expansion consideration of Smithville’s symmetrical gigabit fiber service will largely be driven directly by consumer demand, following the expansion model used by Google Fiber in other areas of the country.

This proposed exploration of additional potential Bloomington expansion follows on Smithville’s current ongoing expansion projects, including an ongoing Smithville-funded fiber-to-the-cabinet project to improve speed and services to the company’s legacy copper customers in Greene County and elsewhere.

“Over the past few years we’ve been asked many times by Bloomington residents: ‘When are you coming to my neighborhood?’,” said Darby McCarty, Smithville chairman and CEO. “Moving forward, our message to southeast Bloomington today is ‘We heard you, now we need to hear from you.’”

A model currently used by Google Fiber asks interested residents to register and place a modest monetary deposit to help guide development of new fiberhoods. “As industry news coverage of Google has recently noted, creating all-new broadband networks is ‘enormously expensive,’” Ms. McCarty explained. “So before Google commits to a new fiber build, they want to fully understand whether potential customers are truly interested or not – Smithville will now do something very similar in southeast Bloomington.”

According to John Patten, president of Smithville Fiber, the all-new defined areas of southeast Bloomington under consideration for Smithville expansion will be asked to register and deposit $70 online to help Smithville Fiber executives determine where to build a new network. The $70 deposit will be applied to the new customer’s first bill if Smithville commits to building a new network in that neighborhood.

The deciding factor for the potential Smithville expansion is this: current plans call for Smithville to commit to a specific fiber build once the individually defined Bloomington neighborhood registrations reach the 50% mark. If that level of registration is not reached, the $70 will be refunded in full.

“Our adaption of the Google Fiber model is fair, particularly since the high-performance history of Smithville’s Gigabit fiber service is well known in the Bloomington area,” Patten explained. “That positive ‘word-of-mouth’ about Smithville is so high that several people have asked us how they can personally help bring Smithville Fiber to their neighborhood, so we’re creating a ‘Smithville Champion’ program to help build grassroots support.”

Continuing, Patten emphasized: “Once a neighborhood commits to the point where formal qualified registrations cross the 50% mark for that specific neighborhood, we’ll take care of the rest and get that neighborhood started with engineering and construction plans.”

The new potential Smithville areas, or expansion “zones,” are:

• Jackson Creek zone (The Stands, Claybridge, Canada Park and Jackson Mill)
• Spicewood zone (Spicewood and Somerset)
• Renwick zone
• Hyde Park zone (Hyde Park, Village of St. Remy and Silver Creek)
• Kensington zone (Kensington and Brookstone)
• MeadowCreek zone (MeadowCreek and Oaklawn Park)

More information and registration opportunities by neighborhood will be available at Smithville’s new portal site for Bloomington community expansions at http://bloomington.smithville.com.

“This represents an exciting development for Smithville Fiber,” said Patten. “With construction costs for fiber ranging up to $60,000 a mile in the Bloomington area, we have to be as certain as we can that we’re making appropriate investments in a given community area.”

Reflecting the reality of those costs is one reason that Google Fiber recently announced that it is scaling back certain previously announced expansions in other areas of the country, the Smithville president added. “The good news is that fiber lasts a long time and can dramatically improve productivity and quality of life,” Patten continued. “The challenging bad news is that fiber expansion is often initially very expensive – our plan is to create a winning scenario for the people of southeast Bloomington.”

The additional potential expansions into Bloomington are being made feasible by new fiber construction that Smithville will complete to reach areas it previously announced in August.

“We have had a strategic fiber presence for enterprise services in Bloomington for quite some time,” said Cullen McCarty, Smithville executive vice president. “By leveraging our current installations and coupling those with our committed expansions in Winslow Farm, Lakes Neighborhood, and other areas, it makes sense to build on that and see if enough residents are interested in us bringing a new fiber network to them as well.”

The potential areas of expansion directly link to new trunk lines now in the engineering stages of planning, according to Dave Brodin, chief operating officer for Smithville Fiber. “Now is the time we need to know whether additional residents are truly interested enough for us to extend a pure fiber-to-the-home installation to their residence,” Brodin said. “Google has found that the modest deposit better reflects a real commitment of interest, so we’re adopting that model.”

Reflecting earlier comments made by Patten, the Smithville COO pointed out that as soon as an identified neighborhood reaches a 50% registration level, Smithville plans to immediately commence planning and engineering to transform that neighborhood into a high-speed “fiberhood.” Actual construction of the new fiber network would begin shortly after that.

Brodin said that new Bloomington fiber networks could be active in 2017 if interest is sufficiently high.

If the defined neighborhoods don’t reach 50% within a reasonable period of time, Smithville will consider them inactive and refund the deposits.

“Ideally we would like to combine planning and engineering for these new potential neighborhoods with the areas that we’re already committed to, so there is a degree of urgency to gauging interest,” Patten said. “Our plan is to have people register sooner rather than later so we can fairly explore interest and subsequently make our plans.”

Earlier in August, Smithville Fiber announced its commitment to expand its nationally recognized fiber service to more than 1,000 homes and apartments in Bloomington and outlying areas. These include the Kirkwood and Smallwood apartment buildings, the new Lakes Neighborhood in southeast Bloomington, about 410 homes in the existing Winslow Farm development and other areas, including the Walnut Woods affordable housing facility.

While Smithville is considering these expansion projects, the company is also moving forward with plans to update older copper connectivity in a fiber-to-the-cabinet ongoing project in Greene, Owen and other counties where Smithville provides rural service. “While it doesn’t yet bring the full gigabit service available in a pure fiber overbuild, our fiber-to-the-cabinet project helps bring our copper customers up to levels of service that match services offered by our competitors,” Brodin explained.

“Whether fiber or copper-based, all of our customers are important to us,” Patten emphasized.

Smithville began bringing its GigaCity technology in a full overbuild of the city of Jasper, which is expected to be completed by 2018. The first sections of the gigabit fiber FTTH project came online earlier this year.

“Our Bloomington new fiber builds will deploy our premium gigabit technology service,” said Brodin. “This means high-speed connectivity up to gigabit both up and down in data transfer speed – this is not a hybrid coax connectivity project.”

Smithville, which began using the brand name Smithville Fiber in 2015 to reflect its long-term commitment to a 21st century fiber platform, is a fiber-optics industry pioneer in Indiana. It began a multi-year $100 million major system fiber overbuild of its older telephone customer base in 2008, and has since developed a number of privately financed new fiber installations in Jasper and elsewhere. These newer private developments deploy advanced fiber technology that allows the full capacity of a gigabit of connectivity to both residents and businesses.

Smithville Fiber operates high-speed fiber broadband service to residential areas and to Indiana-certified technology parks, hospitals, manufacturers, financial institutions, municipalities, large non-for-profit organizations, and school systems.

About Smithville Fiber and Smithville Communications – Nationally recognized as a Top 100 Broadband Company, privately owned Smithville Fiber is Indiana’s largest independent telecom company with about 200 employees. With an earned reputation as a communications technology innovator, Smithville is presently deploying Fiber-to-the-Premise (FTTP) and other enhanced fiber services to its business and residential customers. These services, which range up to 100 Gbps for enterprise operations, provide a platform for the fastest connectivity available in Indiana to business, institutions and consumers. The company develops the Smithville GigaCityTM technology platform and provides fiber-based connectivity, data consulting, network management and managed services for businesses, university campuses, biotechnology companies, healthcare providers, government offices, residential centers, communities, and other entities, including the cities of Jasper and Danville (Indiana). Smithville also manages a legacy copper communication network in rural south central Indiana, and began a system-wide effort to upgrade rural capacity with a fiber-to-the-cabinet initiative in 2014. The company currently serves about 23,000 businesses and residences in southern and central Indiana. For more information, please visit www.smithville.com.