Twin Valley, which provides internet service to Milford, received grant funding to expand its fiber-optic internet connectivity into Junction City.
“We … have always had plans to come to Junction City at some point and when we found out there was opportunity for grant dollars to start providing broadband to the areas between Milford and Junction City, we jumped at the chance,” said Ben Foster, president and chief executive officer of Twin Valley.
There are two phases to the project. Funding for the first phase is coming from SPARKS money and will cover about 6,000 homes and businesses. It will pass through a significant part of the city and hit the industrial parks and the hospital he said.
“We, overnight, became the largest community in Kansas with fiber optic internet options for the home,” said Junction City Mayor Jeff Underhill.
Fiber-optic internet is a broadband connection that can reach speeds of up to 940 Megabits per second. The technology uses fiber-optic cable, which can send data at about 70% the speed of light.
With COVID-19 causing an increase in homes using online services, having connectivity unities, proven to be more and more important.
Besides being helpful for households, the technology serves as an important recruiting tool for businesses, especially when trying to entice multi-billion-dollar companies, said Underhill, who also serves as chairman of the Economic Development Commission.
“We have some large industrial sites out on Old 40 that are currently sending their staff members home to download plans, and things like that,” he said. “As we're recruiting businesses, having that connectivity to connect to their other sites and off site is really an asset for them.”
Work on the first phase must be complete by Dec. 31, a requirement for all projects utilizing SPARK funding. Had the city not voted in Nov. 2019 to install a conduit system and a fiber-optic network to connect the city buildings, Twin Valley’s expansion may not have been possible, Foster and Underhill said.
That installation was necessary because the city could not get the connection required for the upgrades to the automatic metering system and the water plant and wastewater plant improvements, Underhill said.
“We looked at several options in November, whether it be paying Cox to upgrade our network or to put in our own and we actually voted to put in our own,” he said. “Rather than just installing one line that we were going to use, we went above and beyond on the project and installed seven microducts that we are in turn able to lease out to different carriers such as Twin Valley.”
Phase two is still in the planning stages. Foster said Twin Valley is working with Junction City officials on the details.
“Our vision is … for us to deploy fiber optic gigabit speeds across all of Junction City,” he said. “There's still quite a bit of work that needs to get done. It's a very expensive but it's also one that lasts for decades into the future. We've been working with the city on how do we utilize that infrastructure in a way that's a win, win for the city and its residents, and also us.”