High-speed internet provider MetroNet has stopped all work in the Central Indiana area after the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission found it responsible for 10 out of 20 incidents that damaged gas lines in Carmel and Fishers in recent weeks.
The Evansville-based company is constructing a service building west of Bennett Parkway on Old 106th Street in Zionsville, but it has not yet begun installing fiber optic lines underground. With work halted in the region, spokeswoman Linda Jackson said she does not know when MetroNet might begin digging in Zionsville.
The cities of Carmel and Fishers ordered MetroNet to stop installing new lines after its subcontractors damaged nine gas lines in Carmel and 11 in Fishers. The City of Westfield did the same thing after damage to a gas line Sept. 8 resulted in gas leaking into the sewer system. As a result, nearby homes were evacuated and electricity in the area was turned off until the gas line was repaired.
MetroNet President John Cinelli said the company is taking the IURC’s findings seriously and that its goal is “always to protect public safety.”
“We are voluntarily pausing all underground construction in Central Indiana while we conduct further contractor training,” Cinelli stated. “We are committed to providing a world-class fiber optic infrastructure in Indiana and building it in a responsible manner.”
Carmel spokeswoman Nancy Heck said that the affected Hamilton County communities are discussing local legislation that would give municipalities the ability to fine MetroNet or others for certain violations.
Zionsville Town Manager Ed Mitro stated in an email that officials are “well aware of the issues” in Hamilton County and that they plan to closely monitor MetroNet’s installation process in Zionsville. In February, the Zionsville Town Council approved issuing $1.5 million in Indiana Economic Development Revenue Bonds and using tax increment financing to make it financially feasible for MetroNet to bring its services to Zionsville.
The IURC report stated that six of the incidents were found to be caused by utility companies not marking the gas lines properly as required by law, and another four incidents did produce enough evidence to show a law was violated.
The report also stated that all six subcontractors involved in the incidents were from out of state and that five of them were not registered with the Indiana Secretary of State’s office. The unregistered companies could face fines of up to $10,000.