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Rural Kansas Going Fiber

Rural Kansas Going Fiber

With fewer than 10,000 residents and situated more than 120 miles outside of Kansas City is the small city of Chanute, Kansas. With their remote and rural location, city officials realized a fiber-optic network could put Chanute ahead of other similarly sized cities in the Midwest.

In early May, members of the Chanute City Commission discussed several fiber optic options for a city-owned network. The first option has the city building, owning and operating a fiber-optic core that included fiber-to-the-home for residents who wanted the service. The second option has the city building out a fiber-to-the-home network but then having private companies lease the network and provide services for voice and video to residents.

During the meeting, the discussion focused on the financial merits of the options. For the city-owned and operated network, the initial investment would be almost $11 million and it would take nearly six years to pay back financing for the project. The 20-year net present value would be an estimated $40.5 million. For the privately leased and operated option, the initial investment would be near $14 million and it would take almost nine years to pay back financing for the project. The 20-year net present value would be an estimated $25.5 million.

Currently, the most popular option has Chanute building out the network and serving as the Internet Service Provider while a private company would service video and phone services to residents. This company would pay the city for use of the fiber network.

“We will be the internet service provider,” Chanute Utilities Director Larry Gates said on the Chanute Tribune. “As far as the video content of that, we’re not looking at providing that. We will transport it across our fiber. Someone else will take care of the providing for that — same way with the telephone.”

The system would be designed to support residents and businesses in Chanute and surrounding communities, but officials see young students as the biggest winners.

“There’s 17 percent of the kids in our school system that have no electronic communications at home to where they can do any sort of school work at home,” Chanute Utilities Director Larry Gates said. “I think that we would be working with the school system to try and get them to where they can get them to the library, where they can get to the school, get to their homework, get to things that are internal.”

As city officials in Chanute realized, having access to fiber optic Internet service improves quality of life, promotes education and drives the economy. Fiber-optic connectivity takes the countryside and brings it into the digital age. For city officials, telecom providers and investors looking to build out fiber optic networks fiber maps and broadband maps can be utilized to analyze and assist in planning. If you are interested in obtaining fiber network maps for a particular area, contact GeoTel Communications at (800) 277-2172.


Valerie Stephen