Medina still is waiting for cable plan

Cable TV provider Mediacom presented the Medina City Council with a surprise, Tuesday, Aug. 20.

City Councilors were expecting to see a map describing a plan for extending broadband infrastructure to under served areas of Medina this year and in 2014. Instead, the council got an explanation from Bill Jensen of Mediacom and a promise that the map would be available in September. He said his company was looking at beginning construction in mid September.

This was the second time since June that Mediacom has missed a deadline for providing a build out map to the city of Medina. The company is two months behind its original schedule. In other words, parts of Medina will have to wait a little longer to get access to cable TV, high speed internet and telephone service via cable.

The waiting list includes the Medina Police and Public Works Departments, who are getting ready to move from Medina City Hall to the former Clam Corps office/warehouse building at 600 Clydesdale Trail. Medina Public Safety Director Ed Belland said it is “imperative” that Mediacom have internet service to the new police/public works headquarters up and running by Nov. 1.

After the meeting, Belland explained that Nov. 1 is the anticipated completion date for the police/public works facility. The plan is to move furniture into the building during the last week of October. Police will need internet service there to connect with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Affairs and other law enforcement agencies.

At City Hall, Medina Police have access to these agencies via T-1 line. So police will be watching the progress of Mediacom’s broadband construction as they make decisions about exactly when to move. Once Medina Police get broadband in their new Clydesdale Trail home, they will have a significantly faster means of exchanging information with the BCA and FBI.

Jensen said his company has been backed up by a number of construction projects. This is the reason that company engineers have not completed the map outlining the plan for constructing 30 miles of broadband infrastructure in under served areas of Medina in 2013 and 2014.

Now Mediacom is ready to “start in earnest” by Friday, Aug. 23 or Monday, Aug. 26, Jensen said. An engineer would begin measuring distances for cable runs along streets and to homes and businesses. This process would require about five days of field work. It would take another week to 10 days to put together the map, which the City Council could review on Sept. 17. Construction is likely to begin in mid-September and continue as long as the weather “stays with us.” Mediacom’s construction crews might be able to work until mid November.

The goal for this year is to give priority to hooking up the new public works/police facility, city hall and the Highway 55 corridor, Jensen said. Mediacom’s commitment is to have 7.67 miles of cable activated and on to the network by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, Mediacom is considering making Medina its first fiber-to-the-home city, Jensen said. The new infrastructure would be glass fiber rather than a hybrid of fiber and coaxial cable. Most cable companies consider the hybrid cable to be the most cost effective. With fiber cable, data speeds potentially are unlimited. Fiber optic networks require fewer devices in order to operate, so there are fewer opportunities for a network to fail.

Mediacom would charge Medina users the same price for fiber to home service as it would for service with hybrid cable, he said. He added that he would know more about the cable type and construction priorities in about three weeks.

As Jensen described fiber to home service for Medina, he also noted that Medina has been “the first to leave the nest (the Lake Minnetonka Communications Commission).” Mediacom has committed to begin construction on the 30 mile infrastructure build out this year prior to the official start date of the cable company’s contract with Medina in mid December.

For many years Medina has been a member of the LMCC, which is a group of 17 cities that band together for cable television service. The LMCC is in the process of re-negotiating its contract with Mediacom for providing cable TV service and infrastructure. The current LMCC/Mediacom contract expires in December.

A big issue in the contract negotiations is the fact that five cities are considered to be under served with cable infrastructure. Medina residents and businesses have complained about the slow pace of extending infrastructure to rural areas, and some not so rural. In an effort to speed up cable construction, Medina decided in April to contract directly with Mediacom. In May, the city notified the LMCC that it will withdraw from the cooperative as of Dec. 15. The Medina/Mediacom contract will go into effect on that date.

Deputy Mayor John Anderson presided over the Aug. 20 City Council meeting because Mayor Liz Weir was on vacation. Anderson said to Jensen that Medina was the first city to leave the LMCC. Medina made this decision “with some angst.”

The delay in infrastructure construction “is embarrassing,” he said. “I do not want to be embarrassed again.”

Contact Susan Van Cleaf at [email protected]