In a small northwestern Kansas town that sits in the middle of miles and miles of farmland, 1,300 people go about their day with access to some of the country's fastest internet speeds. Businesses, schools, the hospital, and local municipalities thrive as access to gigabit internet has completely revitalized the economy and way of life for the people of St. Francis, Kansas. Eagle Communications, a rural provider in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Colorado, teamed up with the town to launch their network after government and business leaders in St. Francis sought out the provider for help in gaining gigabit access—a type of connectivity that would help them connect, and compete, with the rest of the world on a whole new level.
The partnership with St. Francis is unique in that Eagle was able to work with the town to aggregate demand—or to come up with enough community members who were willing to sign up for the service. Together, they were also able to find volunteers who could help make the project happen, to justify the cost, time and effort, and long-term sustainability of the buildout. "We got the subscribers and Eagle put the fiber to the premises in town. And now everybody that wants it has it. And I think every day there's new people signing up because they talk to their neighbors and their neighbors tell 'em, 'Whatever you've got, it isn't as good as this,'" said Robert Grace, the local owner of an agriculture aviation company.
Since the Eagle fiber buildout, 11 new businesses have opened and nine new commercial ventures have sprung up. Eagle's gigabit internet service has also enticed young professionals to work in the rural area and try out new opportunities. "In fact, there was a young man and his wife and new little baby just moved back this past week, and he now works from home. Works for Lockheed Martin. You know before this, before Eagle came to town, we really couldn't do that. Did not have enough broadband to support things like that," said Grace.
At an event last week hosted by NCTA and the Rural Broadband Caucus in Washington, DC, cable operators, including Eagle, shared the innovative ways that they are bringing broadband to rural America. Public-private partnerships and demand aggregation are critical to closing the digital divide in remote regions of the country, especially when high costs and low populations prove to be obstacles to laying fiber in isolated areas. "A high-speed internet service is so important for healthcare, schools, the business community. Important for all those businesses that want to survive in rural America," said Eagle President & CEO Gary Shorman. "And we talk about how we can go about making broadband work. This is one of the ways to make it happen."
Read more about how Eagle turned St. Francis into a gigabit community.