The Chase County Chamber of Commerce is embarking on a project to improve the internet service in Chase County.
“Service in our rural areas is pretty dismal, when present at all, and with a few exceptions, internet service in our towns is spotty, slow and unreliable,” Chase County Chamber President Pat Larkin said.
Internet service in Chase County is currently provided by several providers; AT&T, Wheat State, Bluestem and TC Wireless, with AT&T serving the majority of residents and businesses. AT&T was providing service under a designation of “provider of last resort,” which is a bit of an ominous designation at best.
AT&T has opted out of this designation and so no longer has an obligation to provide internet service in Chase County at all.
With a grant from the Trusler Foundation, the Chase County Chamber of Commerce commissioned a high-level engineering study; the first step to studying the feasibility of a new and improved internet system for the area. The next step is to fold this engineering information into a financial feasibility study.
The process is to analyze if the system will cost a given amount to install, how many customers at what rates would be necessary to make the venture work financially — and will it work financially?
There is federal and state funding out there and part of what needs to be done is figure out if the county fits the criteria in order to take advantage of those funding sources.
“This is a very important project for the county as our world’s business — including farming and ranching — is becoming more and more dependent on reliable and fast internet service,” Larkin said. “We have already had a few businesses decline to relocate here as a result of our slow and unreliable internet service not meeting the needs of those potential businesses.
“As technology marches along, if we stand still as a communit, we be left in the dust.”
Another aspect of technology continuing to move forward is security requirements, for banks and other businesses. If they are unable to satisfy regulatory requirements, they simply will not be able to operate in the area.
There are times when businesses are without internet service for hours and even days at a time.
“That is no way to run a business,” Larkin said.
The broadband internet initiative in Chase County is not simply a chance to “catch up” with technology, but a great opportunity to be a leader. The county’s efforts are already well ahead of others in the state.
“What a great time to help lead other rural communities to finding the best and most cost-effective ways of providing internet service to their homes and businesses,” Larkin said.
So, what is the next step for Chase County residents?
Over the next 60 days, the broadband task force will be conducting a survey in which it would love to have everyone participate. The survey will help to know things like: How important is good and reliable internet service to you? How much you are willing to pay for what level of internet service? What speed of internet service are you currently receiving? If fast and reliable internet service were available to you, would you subscribe?
These and several other questions will help the task force — as well as internet providers — figure out if this broadband initiative even makes financial sense. And, whether or not the project would be eligible for federal funding or grant money.
To take the survey, Chase County residents may go to the Chamber of Commerce website at: www.ChaseCountyChamber.org and simply follow the directions.
“This is also another great opportunity for the residents of Chase County to do what they do best, and that is to shine,” Larkin said. “Whenever the chips are down, this amazing county always pulls together in the same direction to resolve whatever the issue. I am confident this will be another one of those times for us.”