HARPER, Kan. (KSNW) – A broadband boost has been a long time coming for many in rural Kansas.

“We temper our internet usage. We don’t need all our kids streaming at the same time,” said rural Harper resident Leslie Gerber. “But I think in the rural communities, we struggle with getting good internet service and being able to connect with people. We also learn to just manage with what we have.”

Gerber is intrigued by the possibility of faster internet for her website.

Years ago, she and her husband put in a berry patch. Now they own and operate Sweet Berries & Brambles outside their home. It’s a “you pick it” farm.

“We run a website, but it’s pretty basic,” said Gerber.

Gerber is near the expansion zone for SCTelcom.

SCTelcom just got roughly $750,000 grant to expand fast internet to rural areas.

“And we have switched entirely to. All expansion is with fiber in the ground. Fiber to the premises,” said SCTelcom CEO Carla Shearer. “So whether it’s a home-based business or rural business, we are serving them with fiber now.”

Shearer says it’s about $35,000 a mile in the area to lay new fiber. More if they hit a rock.

“Being able to participate, like I say, without boundaries,” said Shearer. “We see a lot of our network usage has increased and has remained there through the pandemic. So our network usage is very high. People working from home, they found a way to do it.”

Shearer says they are expanding into parts west and south of Harper right now. And more expansion is on the way.

Sweet Berries & Brambles chickens

Shearer also says connectivity is getting a big boost from the State of Kansas.

“SCTelcom has been here since 1953. We started into internet in 2001,” says Shearer. “This boost is very much a good use of taxpayer money.”

For Gerber, she has no immediate plans to revamp her basic website. But she says up-to-speed rural internet service is a long time coming.

“It’s actually challenging marketing in this day and age is different than what it was even 15 years ago,” said Gerber.