LAHARPE — Armed with a state grant made available because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, LaHarpe Telephone’s New Wave Broadband is extending its broadband internet access to remote areas of Allen County.
Construction wrapped up last week on the second of a pair of 190-foot towers, this one in the Geneva Township in the northwesternmost regions of the county. The first was finished earlier this month just east of Mildred.
“There are a lot of areas out there that don’t have decent internet,” noted Harry Lee Jr., owner of LaHarpe Telephone and New Wave.
That’s because of their remote location from faraway transmitters, and just enough topographic obstructions, such as hills and trees.
Invariably, those residents depend upon satellite-based internet services, which can often be problematic, he continued. “They’ll have latency problems or data caps,” Lee said.
As a result, “It’s really difficult for kids doing online schooling, parents trying to work remotely, or people doing telemedicine.”
And if 2020 has proven anything, it’s that the demand for broadband access is greater than ever.
With that in mind, the Kansas Department of Commerce announced earlier this year the Connectivity Emergency Response Grant, which funds 75% of projects geared to improve connectivity to unserved and underserved areas of Kansas “to address the needs of telework, telehealth, distance learning and other remote business services.”
New Wave was aided by letters of support from several residents in both areas, two of whom, Virginia Latta and Paul Knight, agreed to allow construction of the towers on their respective properties.
“There are limitations, as with everything,” Lee noted.
Wireless internet, after all has slightly less capacity than fiber-optic cable, but the grant mandates “carrier grade” equipment be used, “which is highly reliable and allows you to give good, robust packages in terms of internet speeds,” Lee said.
“This is the wireless product in the most cost-effective way to serve a huge area,” he said. “ Probably, the reason it hadn’t happened previously was the economics. Because of the grant, economics made more sense.”
As per terms of the grant agreement, the towers are scheduled to be online by the end of the month.