Company bringing fiber-optic internet, TV to Mercer County starting in Hermitage

Apr. 26—HERMITAGE — After years of complaints by residents regarding their cable and internet providers, a new company could finally provide some local competition.

Omni Fiber, a Mason, Ohio-based Internet, voice and video services provider, has work crews laying fiber optic cable throughout Hermitage. Company officials say this is part of their plan to expand into Mercer County.

"In Ohio and Pennsylvania, there's a glaring need for additional offerings," said Eric Boris, who handles new market development with Omni Fiber.

"Right now there's limited options when it comes to cable and television."

Boris, Chief Operations Officer Steve Grable and Vice President of Construction Reed Samuelson, shared some of Omni Fiber's plans during the Hermitage board of vommissioners April work session.

According to company documents, Omni Fiber was founded in 2022 to fill the gap that traditional telephone and cable companies have left in small and mid-size cities in the Midwest.

The company is funded by the investment firm Oak Hill Capital, and its leadership team has more than 80 years of combined experience building and operating fiber networks across the U.S., including operations in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Michigan.

Omni Fiber is active in 30 markets in Pennsylvania and Ohio, the documents state.

As a competitive access provider, Boris said company officials are able to enter an area to determine if it is underserved, then build the necessary infrastructure.

"This is going to be an $11 million investment we're making in the Shenango Valley," Boris said, adding that this project will not require federal, state or local funds.

The company documents report that Omni Fiber downloads twice as fast and uploads 50 times faster than cable.

The documents also state that 47% of rural moves are to areas with fiber, 72% of consumers rate broadband availability as very important, and there is $78 million in potential revenue that could be generated by in-home businesses in areas with Fiber To The Home, or FTTH.

Boris said discussions first began about a year ago, when Omni Fiber officials reached out to Penn-Northwest Development Corp., Mercer County's economic development agency.

Local municipal officials were then contacted and have been cooperative with the plan to bring Omni Fiber's services to the area, Boris said.

Boris said the company focuses on residences, followed by multi-family units, and that the focus will be on laying fiber optic lines in residential areas.

However, if a business is located near an existing line, then company officials could look at connecting that business.

"Usually when we enter an area, we start out in small chunks and expand from there," Boris said.

Commissioners President Duane Piccirilli said he was glad to see a new provider coming to the area, since residents repeatedly came to city officials over the years with complaints about Spectrum, owned by Charter Communications.

Common complaints included rate increases and unwanted channels, while many residents were particularly upset with Spectrum's customer service.

When Spectrum received a 10-year, non-exclusive cable franchise in January 2019, commissioners invited the public to share their concerns before the agreement's approval.

Residents filled the municipal building for that particular meeting, voicing their complaints with a Spectrum representative before the commissioners' vote.

"They're a communications company that's terrible at communicating," Piccirilli said of Spectrum.

Gable said Omni Fiber's customer service is based in Milford, Ohio, employing local residents instead of outsourcing or redirecting customer service.

Gable added that Omni Fiber partners with DirectTV and streaming services and is not reliant on Spectrum or Verizon.

Commissioner Louis Squatrito said he approached a work crew he saw in the community and was pleased with what he saw.

"That's the thing about competition, it moves the bar up for everyone," Gable said.

Construction began this month and the company expects to launch service in phases starting in August. Once residents begin seeing Omni Fiber advertisements, they will be about 30 to 40 days from service, Boris said.

An update was posted to Hermitage's Facebook page Friday, informing residents that flags in yards or construction equipment in neighborhoods could be work crews installing fiber optic lines.

Any property damage that occurs will be corrected and restored when construction is completed.

For any questions or concerns regarding the project, contact the construction supervisors, Timothy Haggard at 314-332-0492 or Stephen Ice at 636-249-4719, the Facebook post states.

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