Company History

The economic history of the South Bend area is a story of location and logistics. Rivers for shipping, then railroads, highways and air transportation enabled for more than a century the movement of materials to create a world center of manufacturing.

As manufacturing declined in the latter half of the 20th Century, ideas and services became the dominant drivers of the area’s economy.

Once again, location provides an advantage. South Bend is, quite literally, sitting on the logistics necessary to support this new economy. As raw materials and the products manufactured from them travel on railroads and highways, information travels on fiber optic cables and networks. Just as I-80/90, the “Main Street of the Midwest,” crosses the northern quadrant of St. Joseph County, one of the largest concentrations of national and regional long-haul fiber runs underground through the center of South Bend.

Like a limited access highway without an onramp, proximity alone does little for a community.

Access to high-speed and high capacity broadband services allowing the region to make full use of these logistics was limited. Even when available, the cost was many times higher in South Bend than for the same level of service in nearby Chicago, putting area businesses and institutions at a disadvantage.

And the limitations of the St. Joseph County’s telecommunications infrastructure were becoming increasingly critical. The University of Notre Dame, for example, had adopted a goal of becoming a major global player in research and commercialization of technology. University officials said that an affordable, geometrically scalable means of communicating voice, video and data, was absolutely vital to support this goal.

Existing providers had little incentive to invest in building the reliability, capacity and level of service needed to support the new economy. Economic development such as that offered by Notre Dame's expanding role could be strangled without a 21st Century telecommunications infrastructure.


Finding a way to bridge the gap between available and needed infrastructure became the focus of an effor organized and funded by Project Future, until 2012 the economic development organization serving South Bend, Mishawaka and St. Joseph County.

Project Future began a review of the benefits that expanding high-speed data communications would bring to the St. Joseph County region.

The study concluded that almost all areas of economic, civil and cultural endeavor, from private to public sectors, from kindergarten through graduate education programs, from workforce training to technologically advanced manufacturing, would become increasingly dependent upon information technology.

The study confirmed that access to dark fiber broadband technology to support information technology was both greatly needed and largely unavailable. The area’s ability to compete for the data-centric growth of the 21st Century, bringing new jobs, a growing tax base and better quality of life, depended on meeting these communications needs.

As a result, the Project Future committee recommended creating an entity to satisfy that need.

Government agencies, nonprofit institutions and other organizations sharing the vision and commitment that dark fiber technology could enhance the region’s economic opportunities, community development and quality of life collaborated to recommend formation of St. Joe Valley Metronet to implement that vision.

Working from September 2002 through December 2003, Project Future staff, members of its board of trustees, representatives of city and county governments and of the Chamber of Commerce of St. Joseph County, and other community volunteers put together plans to bring St. Joe Valley Metronet into existence.

The planners adopted four operating principles:

  1. Metronet would build a dark fiber network, providing only physical infrastructure; users would provide the optic equipment to light the fiber.


  2. The network would be vendor neutral, openly available, at fair subscription rates, to any user or provider of digital telecommunications transport and related services. The real power in a dark fiber network comes from the long-haul carriers’ Points of Presence (POPs) to which the infrastructure is connected. Hence, it will be most advantageous for Metronet to connect to facilities where multiple telecommunications vendors are located. The more telecommunications vendor options available at a facility, the better pricing and service options each user will be able to access.


  3. As a nonprofit, St. Joe Valley Metronet would pass financial returns back to the community through below-market pricing.


  4. The network would be built in phases, first working with the local community and telecommunications entities to meet the fiber optic needs of government agencies, nonprofit institutions and private sector corporations critical to the economic vitality of the region. Next, Metronet would develop partnerships to extend the network to the rest of the St. Joseph County region.

MISSION

St. Joe Valley Metronet, Inc.'s mission is to encourage the ongoing development of the educational, cultural, research, and healthcare institutions; government-related agencies; and other organizations that contribute to community development, economic development, public health and safety, or workforce development in the St. Joseph County area, by providing high-speed data communications network capabilities at the most cost-effective prices available.

GOAL

St. Joe Valley Metronet, Inc.’s goal is to provide physical infrastructure enabling access to high-speed data communications network capabilities by entities in the St. Joseph County area.