HAVILAND, Kan. (KSNW) – In a virtual world, the internet is key. However often in rural areas, it can be difficult to access. In Haviland, a local broadband company received a much-needed upgrade.
The pandemic made it clear for many how important fast internet speeds are to get through the day-to-day virtual life activities But with that came challenges for small internet companies working to serve rural customers.
Haviland Broadband, formerly known as Haviland Telephone is a small, locally-managed internet company. It serves areas in and around Kiowa, Kingman, and Sumner counties.
It serves the small towns of Argonia, Coats, Coldwater, Conway Springs, Cullison, Greensburg, Haviland, Isabel, Mullinville, Nashville, Norwich, Riverdale, Sawyer, and Wilmore.
The average population of the 14 towns in its coverage area is around 366.
“We’ve been around for a long time, we’re a part of these communities and it’s important that we serve them,” said Haviland Broadband Assistant General Manager, Diane Thompson.
When the pandemic hit, the demand for the internet skyrocketed and rural areas were falling behind on speeds.
“Most people had plenty of download speed which is what they use to stream Netflix things like that. Where the problem was was on the upload speed which is when you’re using Zoom,” said Thompson. “One of the things we looked at was fixed wireless. So we had begun to make plans for that, for several months in advance of COVID, and once hit, we saw that was a way to be really quick in getting those faster speeds out.”
With the help of a $185,000 Connectivity Emergency Response Grant (CERG) through the Kansas Department of Commerce, also referred to as CARES Act money, the company expanded its wireless reach and can now provide nearly double the speeds compared to prior.
The three fixed wireless systems are located in three different towns and counties. “We were able to put up three new systems. One in Conway Springs, one in Nashville, and one in Haviland, and they have about a 15-mile perimeter and it reached a lot of our subscribers,” said Thompson.
The upgrade is benefitting 1,428 underserved households and could virtually impact up to 2,700 customers.
For those in the area relying on the internet, it’s a welcome surprise, one that has allowed them to stay connected. “I actually use the internet quite a bit for my master’s classes, and it’s going to be very helpful for my research coming up,” said Barclay College graduate student, George Jackson.
The company is working to bring upgrades to all customers whether they are on wireless or not. Along with installing fiber in several locations, the business is also working to double speeds to non-wireless subscribers.
For more information on Haviland Broadband, click here.