GREG LOWER

A statewide initiative in response to the pandemic will bring cutting-edge broadband to the New Chicago area in Chanute.

The city will receive $1.6 million in funding for a project to connect fiber-optic service to residences as part of the Office of Broadband Development, established Thursday by Gov. Laura Kelly.

Kelly signed an executive order to establish the office and also distributed more than $50 million in Connectivity Emergency Response Grant funds for 67 broadband projects to support economic development, increase healthcare and education access, and promote network affordability.

“Broadband access has been an overlooked problem in Kansas and across the country for years, particularly in our rural and vulnerable communities,” Kelly said. “Today’s announcements mark a significant step forward in my administration’s commitment to achieving the universal broadband coverage that will make our state’s communities competitive economically, healthier, and improve educational access.”

In addition to the Chanute project, Wave Wireless LLC received $362,920 to serve portions of Labette, Montgomery and Neosho counties.

“Ag technology is continuously changing to allow farmers and producers to increase efficiency and output,” Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers said. “Without broadband, Kansas’ hardworking farmers – and our rural communities as a whole – are being left behind. I am very excited to partner with the Office of Broadband Development and the Departments of Commerce and Transportation to strengthen our broadband infrastructure in every corner of our state.”

In a mash-up of internet and steam technology, the area that will receive fiber optic connection was once the south half of the community of New Chicago. The communities of Tioga, Alliance, Chicago Junction and New Chicago united in 1869 in an effort to attract a railroad connection, and took the name of design engineer Octave Chanute.

The project area will begin at the Google medallion at Lincoln and Main, east to Katy Park and south to 7th Street. The medallion commemorates the city’s designation as the default center of Google Maps for Apple computers and was also part of a bid to become a Google fiber expansion city.

“City staff is extremely excited about this opportunity to expand our fiber utility,” city manager Todd Newman said. Staff will update the city commission as the guidelines for expenditures are released next week.

Newman said the city’s Information Technology department applied for the grant.

IT Director Chris Stogsdill said Chanute has 13 Passive Optical Network (PON) areas left to engineer. One PON is engineered already from Main to 7th with two alleys going to 9th.

The project area will include 404 homes, businesses and schools, and officials hope to have a 30- to 40-percent take rate. This would generate $109,080 to $145,440 per year at a charge of $75 per household.

City officials this year completed two PONs totaling more than $665,000 for fiber-optic broadband, one east of Country Club Avenue to US-169 north of 7th, and one east of Plummer between 3rd and 14th streets.

The grant funds cannot be used for past projects, only new builds. Stogsdill said in the other two PONs, residents want to see how well it works before they sign up, and the city gets a lot of sign-ups during construction, as the construction is completed and the internet is activated on neighbors’ houses.

 

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