Internet service provider ImOn Communications plans to bring fiber internet services to all homes in Dubuque by 2024.

The company intends to spend about $18 million to expand its fiber infrastructure, with construction expected to begin in the spring.

By the end of 2022, the company expects that about a third of the city’s residences will have access to ImOn’s high-speed internet services, according to Patrice Carroll, president and CEO of the Cedar Rapids-based company.

“We really made the decision that we have a phenomenal opportunity,” she said. “This is an accelerated growth plan.”

ImOn officials will present the project to Dubuque City Council members on Monday, Dec. 6.

With the addition of fiber internet, a residential support team also will be hired for Dubuque, starting with six new positions at the company’s Dubuque office at 300 Main St. in 2022.

When the project is completed, all Dubuque residents will be able to purchase fiber internet services through ImOn, ranging in speed from 100 megabits per second to 1 gigabit per second, Carroll said.

The project will be funded entirely by ImOn Communications, though the company will partner with the City of Dubuque to use its fiber conduit infrastructure, along with jointly applying for a $6 million federal grant to accelerate bringing fiber services to the city’s two lowest-income census tracts.

City Council Member and Mayor-elect Brad Cavanagh said the project marks a major milestone in advancing Dubuque’s internet service capabilities.

“To be able to run fiber to every single home has been a goal for a while now,” he said. “The fact that we have a company like ImOn that is ready to take the lead on this is pretty amazing.”

Accessible service

ImOn first announced in 2019 its intent to bring fiber internet access to all residences in Dubuque. At the time, the company said the project would take at least four years to complete.

Carroll said ImOn Communications already has invested $10 million in providing internet services to businesses in the city, primarily those along John F. Kennedy and Chavenelle roads. This year, the company took its first step to bring fiber internet services to a residential neighborhood near Loras College.

To date, the company has installed about 40 miles of fiber infrastructure in Dubuque. Carroll said expanding services to all residents will require significantly more.

“It has to be available to all citizens,” she said. “We have a commitment to build out to all residential areas.”

The expansion of fiber in Dubuque is part of a larger project by the company to expand internet services in several Iowa cities. Overall, the company intends to spend about $90 million on the initiative, with the Dubuque expansion making up about 20% of that total, Carroll said.

She said the company still is in the process of designing the infrastructure build-out for Dubuque. She anticipates that design will be completed in February.

Lisa Rhatigan, vice president of customer experience for ImOn Communications, said the company will prioritize making its internet services affordable for all Dubuque residents, estimating that it will offer speeds as low as 100 mbps for $55 per month, with higher speeds costing more.

“We are trying to reach and give the right offer to the right customer,” Rhatigan said.

Carroll said the company shares the City of Dubuque’s vision to make internet service as accessible as possible, pointing to the company installing several free public Wi-Fi hotspots in town.

“One of our fundamental beliefs or principles is to meet people where they are,” she said. “We don’t want them buying a bigger package than they actually need.”

Rhatigan said ImOn also is a participant in the federal Emergency Broadband Benefit program, which will provide low-income residents with grants to offset the cost of internet services.

A major step

The announcement is a major positive step in the city’s effort to expand internet services in the community, local officials said.

City officials have taken several steps to increase internet access, including streamlining the permitting processes and installing fiber conduit throughout numerous neighborhoods. Dubuque City Council listed community broadband expansion as one of its high priorities for 2021.

Rick Dickinson, president and CEO of Greater Dubuque Development Corp., said the initiative will better ready the community to support the increased number of people working from home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It will put us on an even playing field with communities of like size and larger throughout the United States,” he said. “An increased number of folks work from home, and fiber to the home is the gold standard for connectivity.”

City Council Member Susan Farber praised the initiative, saying it will improve the lives of residents and make the city a more economically viable place to work.

“I think it’s great,” she said. “It’s always good to have that accessibility, and it’s a great boost for our technology infrastructure.”

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