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Internet provider investing $11M in Niles

NILES — A private company is set to invest $11 million to construct and maintain a fiber optic internet service in the city.

Officials from Omni Fiber, based in Mason, Ohio, presented the company’s plan at a recent city council roundtable.

Bryant McAfee, Director of Business Development for Omni Fiber, said the project is going to be privately funded. No local tax dollars will be involved.

“We don’t utilize any state, local or federal funding,” he said.

McAfee said Omni Fiber has two goals when approaching the city of Niles — to provide its services to residents and businesses and to boost the local economy by filling jobs with local residents.

“That is building something from scratch,” McAfee said. “That is not anything that is in place today. That is brand new, fiber optic architecture throughout the entire community.”

McAfee highlighted the importance of Omni Fiber’s fully funded plan by noting that while billions of federal dollars are scheduled to fall to the state of Ohio for broadband internet improvements, Niles does not qualify for the money as it already has “high-speed internet” per federal guidelines.

“That money is really geared towards rural areas that have little to no internet at all,” McAfee said.

Omni Fiber was founded in 2022, according to its website. McAfee said the company is active in 14 markets throughout Ohio and working on architectural construction in 20 more communities. McAfee said Omni Fiber’s goal is to be active in 50 Ohio markets by 2025. He said the closest community the company is building in is Wooster.

McAfee said one of main benefits of fiber internet is that it consists of no metal.

“We all know what happens with metal in the atmosphere. It oxidizes, it deteriorates over time, and that is the same with electricity running through it as well,” McAfee said. “Fiber is a strain of glass. There is no electricity and there is no metal to rust.”

Niles Mayor Steve Mientkiewicz said residents of the city now have two internet providers to choose from — Spectrum and AT&T.

“The cable / internet issue in the city, with limited options, has been an ongoing concern of the citizens,” Mientkiewicz said. “Even myself, personally, being a Spectrum customer, locked into that monopoly, the price has only gone up over the years.”

McAfee said having at least a few fiber optic internet providers helps with promoting competition among other, traditional internet companies.

McAfee said one thing that sets Omni Fiber apart from other providers is its speed. According to the company’s website, it provides up to 2 gigabit internet, which is 2,000 megabits per second.

Another point that McAfee highlighted was the price of the service.

According to the company’s website, the base package, 500 mbps, is $55 per month; 1,000 mbps is $75 per month; and 2,000 mbps is $95 per month.

McAfee said those who sign up for the service do not have to sign a contract. He said the price is expected to stay the same.

TIMELINE

McAfee said the company is ready to start aerial construction this week. He said aerial construction, which connects the fiber to existing electric or telephone poles, is typically a quick process as crews can string about 5,000 to 10,000 linear feet of fiber optic cable per week.

McAfee said underground construction, which includes digging and boring, could take longer.

According to a timeline included in McAfee’s presentation, all of the construction is projected to be complete by the end of July.

“But, we’re not having to wait until the entire project is done before residents and businesses can start to take advantage of the aerial,” McAfee said. “You’re going to be seeing, kind of like a clock, as we move around the city, areas are lit up. One side of town might be four or five months later, but it’s going to start and then we’ll go in cadence throughout the project.”

McAfee said access to the fiber optic internet will be released in increments of 500 to 1,000 households.

“This project will be the main infrastructure and then as people sign up, drops will be run from our network to their location,” he said.

After the installation, Niles will continue to be served by an area manager and local field installers.

CITY’S ROLE

“This is primarily, all private enterprise, private investment, a private company in Omni Fiber doing the install of this,” Mientkiewicz said. “The only role of the city has been coordinating their installation design and engineering plans, working through all of the permit processes as well as coordinating with them as far as city-owned utilities go.”

As the city does not have to contribute any funding to the project, Mientkiewicz called it a “win-win” for all parties involved.

“If this is going to be another option for our residents to provide the same service, if not more, at a reduced rate, then it’s something that we’re all for,” he said.

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