We’ve been documenting the long and involved broadband stimulus program for over 18 months now. We all knew that any government program of this size would not move quickly. But the fruit of the broadband stimulus program’s labor is beginning to bloom. Rural Telephone Service of Hays, Kansas is beginning to put customers in service as a direct result of the program, representing what is most likely the first example of actual new broadband customers to be served as a direct result of the broadband stimulus program (although there are no official records of  ‘firsts’ being recorded, at least none that we could find).

“It’s hard to put an actual number on the exact number of customers in service as a result of the program, but we estimate it to be about 200 new customers in service so far,” Rhonda Goddard, COO of Rural Telephone Service (RTS), tells me. “We’re adding more and more everyday,” Larry Sevier, CEO of RTS chimes in. These new customers are a combination of new, previously unserved broadband customers, as well as existing RTS dial-up Internet subscribers, or underserved customers, who thanks to the $101 million broadband stimulus project, now have access to FTTH services.

Rural Telephone’s ambitious project was one of the first approved by the broadband stimulus program, receiving official approval  back in January 2010 from the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) BIP portion of the program. “We were so comfortable with RUS and their process, that we actually began engineering and construction of the project prior to receiving actual funds. That gave us a jump start on the project,” Sevier tells me. New customers were put in service as far back as July 2010 and new exchanges continue to be turned up today. Sevier says they’re on a three year construction timeline to complete the project.

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Details of the RTS broadband stimulus project include:

  • $101 Million in funding – $49+ million in grants and a $51+ million loan
  • Coverage for 23,000 households/businesses and 335 anchor institutions across 11 counties and 21 towns, covering 4,600 square miles of western Kansas
  • Combination of FTTP and WiMax
  • Up to 17 new employees for Rural Telephone / Nex-Tech

The project was so big, RTS hired seven engineering and construction firms, some of whom hired new workers for the project, contributing to the broadband stimulus program’s goal of creating jobs. The initial focus of the project is FTTH, but RTS also intends to use WiMAX in future builds. “We’ve encountered some unexpected environmental clearance issues for WiMAX towers which is delaying that portion of the project,” says Sevier.

Sevier and Goddard tell me that this project will improve RTS’ broadband availability coverage from about 80% (pre stimulus project) to 95% (post stimulus project), while an impressive improvement, also illustrating the ongoing challenge of universal broadband for rural territories.

For Sevier and RTS, it’s business as usual. “Seems like we’re just moving from one major broadband project to another,” Sevier tells me, in reference to a recently completed non-stimulus funded $70 million broadband project where RTS deployed FTTP in several former Sprint exchanges. “Our employees live in these communities and are anxious to bring broadband there and provide the best customer service possible,” says Sevier.

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6 thoughts on “First Broadband Stimulus Funded Customers Now in Service at Rural Telephone of Kansas

  1. Just a small point of detail: Rural Telephone Service Co. is actually located in Lenora, Kansas, located about 70-80 miles northwest of Hays. The Hays office is a distribution center for Nex-Tech products which include CLEC and wireless services. Additionally, it is really great to see Northwest Kansas get a step up on broadband service. Unfortunately, AT&T has no interest in doing anything in their exchanges in the area or anywhere else in Kansas except Wichita, Topeka, and Kansas City's metro area. I still think they will likely unload all of their rural lines in about 12 to 24 months.

  2. i don't understand why att doesn't just go ahead and sell those rural lines now. they don't want to serve those territories and there are plenty of companies like rural telephone that do. all att is doing is milking those rural networks for as much cash as possible until they're bone dry – then what?

  3. Rural Telephone is the leader on communications for North west and North central Kansas. I am so happy to live in a community that has the fiber connectivity. The bundled services offered are not only priced right they allow me to conduct business quickly. This technology is something that everyone should be able to enjoy. I will always be a RTS customer because customer service is number one priority.

  4. I am a Rural Telephone customer and for years have had great service. I have lived in the big city before and found that Rural Telephone in western Kansas has better service than those larger company in the big city.

  5. what a joke this was supposed to be deployed three years agor and it never was, in fact at one poitn the said all the equiptment was hooked up and almost ready to price and connect customers. Now that were footing the bill look like they might roll something out. but hey anyone could do that I mean were suppose to be paying for something wthat was already here and we already payed for(look at you phone bill). Gorham Ks was hooked up before us(hays)

  6. My concern is that there will be no FTTP to rural residences. The Motorola Canopy wireless internet service works great, I'm sure wimax will as well. However the superior bandwith of fiber would allow rural telephone/next-tech to offer "cable TV" to rural residents, as well as switch basic telephone service from the aging copper. Fiber is not subject to some of the wether disruption wireless can experiance

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