LAHARPE — LaHarpe Communications is riding a “New Wave” to provide faster, more reliable Internet service to rural areas of southeast Kansas.
The erection Thursday of a 120-foot tower outside the LaHarpe Communications complex in downtown LaHarpe is the next domino to fall in the creation of New Wave Broadband, which should go online sometime in mid-August.
New Wave offers a fixed wireless Internet feed capable of providing high-speed access. Businesses can be served by up to 1 gigabit-per-second Internet — 1,000 megabits per second — while residential customers can receive up to 14 megabits per second, with current rate plans.
The capacity is more than enough to fill most any Internet customer’s needs, which invariably includes sending and receiving video.
With such Internet-based juggernauts like YouTube and Netflix, having video streaming capability has become the industry standard, noted Harry Lee Jr., owner LaHarpe Communications and New Wave.
“We’re really hoping to provide service to the under-served or the minimally served portions of the area.”
THAT LAHARPE Communications is involved with such an ambitious project is no surprise.
The company — which was formed in 1903 and was purchased by Lee’s father, the late Harry Lee Sr., in 1950 — partnered with several other rural telephone companies in the mid 1980s to create what eventually became Kansas Cellular, then the state’s largest cell phone provider. In 1999, Kansas Cellular was acquired by Alltel, which in turn was acquired by Verizon Communications a few years later.
Then, in 2005, as the world developed a truer grasp of what the technology offered, Lee took the step of providing fiber optic cable to every household he served, in or outside of LaHarpe — more than 350 homes in all.
LaHarpe, which doesn’t have as much as a stoplight, was suddenly home to one of the fastest, most stable Internet signals in the country.
“We were the first company in the state to provide fiber to both rural and community subscribers,” Lee said, “and we were probably one of the first 20 or 25 in the U.S.”
The work didn’t end there.
About four years ago, LaHarpe Communications partnered once again with 28 other independent telephone companies to create the Kansas Fiber Network to create a “fiber ring” throughout rural Kansas.
A fiber ring ensures customers can receive high-speed Internet signals in event of a line break or other disruption, Lee explained.
NEW WAVE’S goal, Lee explained, is create a similar type of virtual ring in Allen County and beyond.
“With the tower, we can take this robust, reliable Internet in the office and broadcast it all over town.”
The acquisition of a nearby 150-foot tower on the outskirts of Gas, goes one step further.
Once online, the Gas tower can beam signals as far away as Burlington, Yates Center, Chanute and possibly Fort Scott, Lee explained.
“Nothing can be faster than having fiber optic to your home,” Lee said, “but this is a pretty powerful signal.”
LaHarpe Communications is partnering with @Link Broadband and Beyond and STS Engineering to create New Wave.
Lee is excited about the new partnership.
“One of @Link’s strengths is they understand how regulated telephone companies and unregulated companies need to work together,” Lee said. “They’re people of integrity with years of experience to make this work.”