Gilberts will vote on fiber cable network

Voters in Gilberts will decide if they want their town to be among few in the nation that have fiber optic cable access for every home and business.

The referendum question on the April 7 ballot will ask voters for the authority to borrow $5 million to build the fiber infrastructure, a plan village officials have been working on for several years.

"It's something that is not readily available in other communities," Village Administrator Ray Keller said. "It would set us apart and put us on a path to better meet the needs of our residents and businesses as their demands and needs for technology grows."

If voters say "yes," the tax increase would amount to about 1.8 percent on most tax bills, Keller said.

That's about $120 per year for a home with a market value of $200,000, about $150 per year for a $250,000 home - or most in Gilberts - and about $180 yearly for a $300,000 home, he said.

The cost would be spread among the village's 2,400 or so taxable properties, but as new homes are built over time, everyone's share would decrease, he said.

Fewer than 90 communities across the U.S. have full fiber access, among them Highland, Illinois, near St. Louis, Assistant Village Administrator William Beith said.

Once the fiber network is built, individual carriers like Comcast would have the choice to enter into agreements with the village to provide high-speed broadband service to residents, Beith said. Residents currently have access only to AT&T U-verse and Mediacom, he said.

About two years ago, the company i3 planned to build a fiber network in Gilberts, but it has since folded, Beith said.

The proposal on the ballot wouldn't be possible without the assistance of developer Troy Mertz, who is working on building a fiber network for his development, The Conservancy, Beith said.

Mertz, operating as iFiber Networks, LLC, is installing fiber cables from Randall Road through Gilberts to reach The Conservancy, and in the process will connect municipal and public safety buildings plus Gilberts Elementary School, Beith said. The village is not spending or giving Mertz any money for this, Beith said.

As Mertz builds his network, the village - if voters approve the proposal - would piggyback on that to expand it to all of Gilberts, Beith said.

The Conservancy, a 1,134-acre development on the northwest corner of Galligan and Freeman roads, will eventually have 985 homes, all with fiber access, Mertz said. The builder is Ryan Homes of Naperville.

"It's just like any other amenity that you'd bring to a residential community - whether it would be parks, open space or cable TV," he said.

Mertz said it's hard to quantify how much additional money he's spending on granting access to village buildings and the elementary school, but it's something he's doing because it will benefit everyone, he said.

"It's a mutual success type of thing," he said. "I hope that by bringing these services into the village, it benefits not just my community but the community as a whole."

Gilberts would be at a competitive advantage with a fiber network, Village President Rick Zirk said.

"If you're looking at West Dundee, Algonquin, Elgin or Gilberts, all things being the same, and if you move to Gilberts you have much greater Internet capacity, it's something that for those tech-savvy type of people will make all the difference."

If voters approve the measure, the village will seek bids for the project, which will entail minimal digging, officials said. The village, which has a AA bond rating with Standard & Poor's, can take advantage of competitive bond rates when it borrows the money, Keller said.

Gilberts looking at fiber optic connection for all by end of 2013

  Developer Troy Mertz holds the tube that will eventually hold a fiber optics network for his development, The Conservancy, in Gilberts. Brian Hill/
  A close-up of fiber optics cables. Brian Hill/
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.