Skip to main content

Page last updated on May 27, 2022 at 3:00 pm

Bloomington Fiber Initiative and Meridiam FAQ

Since the City's announcement of its intent to partner with Meridiam to deploy Gigabit class fiber internet services, we have received questions from City residents. Here's an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page to help answer common questions.

Q: What are the City's Goals?

A: Overall, the City is working to make gigabit class fiber internet service available to every residence and business in Bloomington. Our future economy, healthcare, education, and quality of life will be affected by the quality of our digital infrastructure. Specific goals include:

  • City-wide coverage, leaving no neighborhoods behind
  • Open Access fiber network support 1Gbps and higher speeds
  • Community control so Bloomington has a say to ensure the network meets our long-term needs.
  • Sustainable business model
  • Robust digital equity program to assure better access for low-income or disadvantaged residents
  • Net neutrality
  • Completion within a few years
  • Substantially funded by partner, not taxpayers

Q: What is a gigabit and why is it important?

A: The City's goal is to secure a gigabit class network for all of Bloomington. A gigabit is one billion units of data. A Gigabit network is capable of transferring data at a rate of at least one gigabit per second (1 Gbps). Standard dial-up modem connections operated at 56kbps (kilobits per second). The US Government classifies broadband internet as at least 25Mbps (megabits per second). A gigabit is 40 times the standard for broadband, a significant improvement in speed for streaming videos, audio and photos, as well as emerging technologies like virtual reality, augmented reality, 360 video, 4k video, etc.  Having access to gigabit speed will expand economic and educational opportunities and enhance quality of life for Bloomingtonians.  

But a gigabit isn't the end goal. 10Gig and higher networks are beginning to be deployed. Meridiam is deploying a network that is capable of scaling beyond a Gig as new technology and applications grow.

Q: What do you mean by digital equity?

A: “Digital Equity” means the fair distribution of the internet and modern technology throughout society. Factors that contribute to digital equity include access to the internet, and the quality and affordability of internet service; the availability of quality computing devices; and one's training, comfort, and ability to effectively use computers and the internet. A more familiar term, digital divide, refers to societal disparities in digital equity. Digital equity disparities often mirror other societal equity gaps such as those related to income, race, age, gender, and geographic location, among others. Action taken to mitigate the impacts of digital equity disparities is often referred to as digital inclusion.  For more information about the City’s Digital Equity initiative (including our Digital Equity Strategic Plan and Digital Equity Grants), visit https://bloomington.in.gov/digital-equity

Q: What is in your digital equity plan? How will you address the digital divide?

A: The City is very concerned about the gap in access to internet connectivity for those unable to afford internet access and those with limited options in internet providers. We are working to ensure that as many people as possible in the community can benefit from this investment. The City and Meridiam are currently outlining a Digital Equity plan for income-qualifying residents. Among the currently planned provisions are:

  • 250 Mbps up & down internet speed
  • No connection fee
  • $0 cost of service when Internet Service Provider charges are paired with available federal and state subsidies (i.e. the digital equity program will provide service for $30/month to qualifying residents, and there is a $30/month US Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) subsidy)
  • Eligibility through demonstrated participation in existing programs like: SNAP, TANF, IN Dept of Ed free/reduced meals program, and SSI OASDI

Q: Meridiam plans to reach at least 85% of households.  The Census Bureau reports 85% of households have access to broadband internet. Will Meridiam reach the 15% of residents currently not served by existing ISPs?

A: Meridiam has committed to – at a minimum – reaching 85% of Bloomington households.  So they are likely to exceed those Census bureau numbers.  Perhaps more importantly, ”broadband” as currently defined by the FCC is set at such a low bar (25 Mbit/s downstream, 3 Mbit upload) as to be nearly useless as an indicator of high-speed service availability. 25/3Mbps may be labeled as “broadband”, but it is not high-speed internet service.  We need better than that in Bloomington. Our goal is for everyone to have access to an open, high-speed fiber network (supporting at least 1Gbps). Meridiam’s network is end-to-end fiber and will support 1Gbps speed everywhere it reaches.  

Q: How does the Meridiam Digital Equity program compare to other providers’ subsidy programs? 

A: Meridiam’s digital equity program offers 250Mbps up and down service to all income-eligible residents in the Digital Equity program.  In contrast with the subsidy programs of other providers, the City’s Digital Equity program with Meridiam is a better offering than virtually anywhere in the US. And it far exceeds other providers’ offerings at the same $0 price after factoring in the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program subsidy.  Meridiam also commits to broader eligibility than other broadband providers in Bloomington, and Meridiam plans to dedicate staff resources to help low income residents onto the program.  The City wants everyone in our community to have world class high-speed fiber internet services regardless of income. Meridiam shares this goal and our Digital Equity plan reflects that.

Q: What is the impact of the TIF District for the Meridiam project on taxing units like schools, libraries, etc?  

A: The Meridiam project will cause no loss of revenue to MCCSC schools, the Library, or other taxing units due to the creation of a Tax Increment Finance district to support the buildout.  The infrastructure investment Meridiam plans simply wouldn't happen without this TIF, so the creation of the TIF doesn’t change the tax revenue allocated to local taxing units. 

The Meridiam investment and program also brings many positive benefits including to schools and other taxing units:  

  • Aside from business personal property taxation, which is the subject of the TIF, we expect other aspects of this project to generate local tax revenue (new employment, business operations, etc.) which will benefit local taxing units like our schools. 
  • Schools will have a new competitive local fiber provider for their internet/networking needs.
  • Our entire community including school children and their families will have a new high-speed fiber internet option with a groundbreaking Digital Equity program to support students and families in need.

TIF Districts exist to support infrastructure promoting community development like the Meridam project.  The benefits of the Meridiam project – a community-wide open-access net-neutral FTTP network with best-in-class Digital Equity benefits – is a major step forward for our community, including our schools.

Q: If the Meridiam agreement moves forward how long will it take for me to get gigabit fiber service?

A: The goal is to provide complete buildout of the City within two to three years. Many areas of the community should have service available in 2023.

Q: What do you mean by Network Neutrality?

A: Network neutrality, also known as net neutrality, is the idea that internet service providers (ISPs) will treat all information traveling their cables equally. Access to lawful sites, services, or content must not be blocked and priority may not be given based on payment or any other means. Under net neutrality, ISPs may not favor nor discriminate and fees cannot be based on the source or type of information or equipment. 

Q: Is the City buying/building this network? Was bidding required?

A: The City is not purchasing or building a network.  As such, no bidding or procurement process is required.  The City has essentially recruited a private high-tech company to invest in Bloomington and locate their local operations here, and is providing some digital equity incentives for it to do so. The City has sought to ensure everyone has access to gigabit fiber by recruiting a company to invest its own capital in this necessary infrastructure. High speed fiber connectivity will provide members of our community with more options for internet and other content provided over the fiber network.

Q: I am just hearing about this, has this been a public process?

A: This has been a very public process.  It began in 2016 with a Request for Information (RFI) issued to welcome potential partners/investors to town, and multiple close calls with other parties including Axia, Metronet, and Wyyered.  We have continued to actively seek a partner to help us achieve our connectivity goals for the City: open access, fiber network, network neutrality, community coverage, compelling digital equity plan, and more.   

Q: Why isn't the city working with other companies?

A: We are grateful for the participation of local and national providers in our local broadband market. Meridiam met more of the City's objectives including full City coverage, open-access network model, sustainable business model, strong commitment to digital equity, reasonable time to completion, and sufficient capital to fund the project.

We are pleased that other providers are interested in the Bloomington market and are accelerating their activities. Greater competition over improved infrastructure benefits us all.

Q: What is meant by an "open access network"?

A: An “Open Access Network” means a telecommunications network architecture whereby the owner or the manager of the network may not supply services on / access to the network on an exclusive basis.  It is a wholesale infrastructure network available for use by other unrelated entities.  Some open access networks deploy with a temporary exclusivity period for an initial ISP partner to ensure the financial viability of the infrastructure. 

Q: Does this create local jobs?

A: Meridiam is likely to create at least 8-10 permanent new jobs in the community for its Bloomington and regional operation, not including many more temporary jobs created during the construction and buildout of the fiber network. Meridiam's ISP partners are expected to create additional new jobs in Bloomington as well.

Q: Where is more information available about this project?

A: Please visit the City’s website for more information at bloomington.in.gov/fiber.