Wheatland Broadband to Upgrade Infrastructure
Planned Improvements Will Bring Faster Service
Wheatland Broadband has started the process of upgrading its network infrastructure to bring faster service to our more than 3,000 residential and business members. The improved equipment is expected to yield data speeds comparable to 4G cell service. “We live in a different world now than when we started,” said Jevin Kasselman, Director of IT/Broadband at Wheatland. “Internet is the new utility, people have to have it. And they want more of it.”
Kasselman said the infrastructure upgrades are a multi-year process expected to take about three years to complete. Among the changes is a move to new equipment that will allow Wheatland Broadband to have what’s called a “fixed LTE network” similar to that of cell carriers. That will eventually allow Wheatland to provide the new FCC standard for broadband access speeds of 25 MB download and 3 MB upload.
Wheatland Electric first formed its subsidiary, Wheatland Broadband, in 2002 to deliver reliable, high-speed internet service to our members in rural Western Kansas that had been seemingly left behind by larger telecommunications companies.
Wheatland set out to build a fixed-based, wireless network that would offer internet access to better serve our members while also serving as the backbone of our own communications system at the same time.
“Before we made the decision to build our own network, we tried to work with some of the larger telecommunications companies to get the infrastructure we needed,” said Jevin Kasselman, Director of IT/Broadband at Wheatland. “At one point, we even offered to pay for upgrades to existing networks that would benefit the entire community. At that time, the larger companies just weren’t willing to invest in the infrastructure we needed. We also saw the need for access to high speed internet for our rural members and thought, what if we can do both?”
As the demand for access to reliable internet service grew, so did Wheatland Broadband. Wheatland Broadband brought reliable internet access to previously underserved areas of rural Kansas, in much the same fashion that poles and lines brought electricity to our rural members for the first time back in 1948. With a member-first approach, live, local and friendly support, along with 24/7 after-hours connection assistance, Wheatland’s internet service quickly gained interest in the local communities it served.
“I’ve been a customer since the beginning, actually since before the beginning, I was a part of their pilot program,” said Julie Rumford, a longtime Wheatland Broadband member. “At the time, I really didn’t have any options for reliable internet service. We lived in the country and there was nothing. I love that they are a local company and that they are there when I need them.”
Today, Wheatland Broadband serves more than 3,000 members across 17 southwest Kansas counties. In a truly connected world of smartphones, tablets, home computers and the like, we have seen our members’ appetite for increased speed and accessibility grow exponentially.
“It’s not uncommon for a typical member to have four or five devices connected to the internet at any one time and that takes more speed,” said Kasselman. “We’re working hard to upgrade our network infrastructure to accommodate this explosive growth and stay competitive in this market.”
In addition to providing reliable internet service to our members, Wheatland Broadband has made it a point to give back to the communities we serve as well.
“Concern for Community is one of the cooperative principles we focus on every day,” said Bruce Mueller, Wheatland Electric General Manager. “And our Broadband business is no different. We’re proud of the things we’re able to do in our communities and we love getting to be a part of all of the great things happening in our members’ lives.”
Those great things include providing discounted internet service to every public library in our Broadband service territory and providing free internet Wi-Fi hotspots at community events like air shows, county fairs and community gatherings just to name a few. With the recent acquisition of a mobile tower site or cell on wheels (COW for short) Wheatland has been able to provide temporary internet service for the Governor’s Ringneck Classic Pheasant Hunt, a number of youth swimming meets and even our own annual meeting. Most recently, Wheatland used its COW to help the local high school communications class to live-stream the All-School Reunion parade in Scott City.
Joyce Armstrong, Director of the Hamilton County Library in Syracuse, Kan. is appreciative of Wheatland’s efforts. “Being a small rural library has many challenges, including special project funding as well as access to reliable and affordable internet service,” said Armstrong. “Wheatland has helped us with both of those things. Every dollar counts and we have to figure out how to do more with less, seemingly more and more these days. Between the internet service and the grant opportunities through their Sharing Success program, they’ve really helped us maximize our budget dollars. We’re grateful for our partnership with Wheatland and the programs they offer to libraries.”
For more information about Wheatland Broadband and its services visit www.wbsnet.org.