FAYETTEVILLE – Fayetteville is poised to become the “next gigabit city.”

Indiana-based MetroNet has announced plans to invest $70 million to bring a new high-speed fiber optic (gigabit) internet, TV and phone network to the Fayetteville region.

It covers the towns of Hope Mills, Linden, Wade, Stedman, Godwin, Eastover, Falcon, Spring Lake, Vander and much of unincorporated Cumberland County, as well as portions of Hoke County, such as the communities of Raeford and Rockfish.

Fayetteville will join such NC communities as Wilson (city-owned Greenlight), Wake Forest, Holly Springs and Fuquay-Varina (Ting Internet) that offer fiber optic connectivity beyond traditional service provider service from AT&T, Frontier, CenturyLink, Google, Spectrum and others. CenturyLink and Spectrum are major providers in Comberland County.

The network marks MetroNet’s first deployment in North Carolina and expands its footprint to nine states.

“It’s a major undertaking,” said Kevin Stelmach, executive vice president and general manager for MetroNet, during a virtual press conference on Tuesday afternoon.

“As you can imagine, we’ll be going down almost every street, attaching to existing utility poles and numerous other construction activities. It’s a lengthy process; it takes time and a lot of cooperation.”

Prices for gigabit-speed internet are around $60. Multiple speed plans at different, lower prices also are available, according to the firm’s website.

Fiber optic internet, services coming to Fayetteville, much of Cumberland County

The project is expected to take about two years to complete, he added, and bring around 50 jobs in sales and operations to the region.

No tax incentives were given to the company by the city, county, or any municipality, a a city spokesperson said.

Cumberland County Commissioner Glenn Adams added it was integral to bring broadband to Eastern North Carolina to stop the “digital divide” – the gulf between those who have ready access to computers and the Internet, and those who do not.

“If you go out and look around at some of the areas in Cumberland County, you will see school buses parked over to the side and neighborhoods, because that’s the way our kids have to connect to the internet,” he said.

“That’s a travesty.”

The coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbatedthe digital divide across North Carolina.

Some 33.1 percent of North Carolinians have access to fiber-optic internet service, according to BroadbandNow.

Since 2010, over $6.6 million in federal grants has been awarded to the North Carolina Department of Commerce to put toward gathering broadband data and funding development. An additional $120,685,297 in federal grant funds have been directed toward expanding broadband infrastructure within North Carolina.

Currently, Connecting North Carolina: State Broadband Plan is operating with the goal “for every North Carolinian to have affordable access to broadband service — wireline or wireless — if they so choose, by June 2021.”