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  • Writer's pictureRoger Sims, Journal Staff

KwiKom officials announce plans to expand fiber service

Updated: Nov 7, 2023

Linn County Commission Chair Danny McCullough, from left, KwiKom President Zachery Peres, and KwiKom government affair director John Terry, shovel some dirt in a ground-breaking ceremony for the company's fiber cable project in western Linn County (Roger Sims/Linn County Journal)

By Roger Sims, Journal staff

MOUND CITY – For the past few weeks, Iola-based KwiKom Communications crews have been burying fiber optic cable beginning in the Parker area and moving south toward Blue Mound and west toward Greeley.

On Tuesday, Aug. 29, as crews became that much closer to making the Greeley connection that will feed the western portion of Linn County, KwiKom representatives and officials from Linn County and the cities of Parker and Blue Mound gathered near the county courthouse in Mound City to do a ceremonial groundbreaking.

Speaking at the ceremony were KwiKom President Zachery Peres, the company’s Director of Government Affairs John Terry, and Linn County Commission Chair Danny McCullough.

“Building rural broadband is tremendously exciting,” said Peres in his opening remarks. “We’re expanding fiber into Parker, Goodrich and Blue Mound, Kansas, which frankly I think a lot of people thought was impossible.

“It could not have been done without the support of the county and the city to help bring everybody together and get it done.”

Peres introduced Terry, who came over to KwiKom when it acquired Midwest Connections, as the mastermind behind the $1.12 million project and “the most passionate person you’ll ever meet about rural broadband.”

In June 2022, the county commission approved giving KwiKom $580,000 of federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds in a 50/50 cost-share agreement to run “backbone” fiber cable from its connection in Greeley to Parker and on south to Blue Mound. It would also include wiring Parker, Centerville and Blue Mound for service.

KwiKom representatives said the project would be done within two years.

Terry, who grew up in Stillwell and has friends and family that moved south to Linn County to maintain a rural lifestyle as the metro area grew, said he was excited to have the opportunity to work with the county to bring fiber to the unserved western portion.

He said the “backbone” construction from Greeley to Parker was well under way and that much of Parker already had duct in the ground.

When the project is complete, KwiKom will have about 40 miles of future-ready fiber that is connected to 300 households with up to 2 gigabytes per second (Gbps) for residential customers and up to 10 Gbps for business customers.

Terry said that one of the components of KwiKom’s agreement with Linn County is the promise to collaborate on future grant projects. He added that the company is already looking at several grant programs on the horizon, including federal grant money that is expected to bring broadband to 75% of rural residents in the state.

He said the company has already applied for a grant that will build a fiber backbone from Blue Mound west to the Anderson County line along Kansas Highway 31.

"I'd like to thank Danny McCullough and the Linn County Commission for recognizing the desperate need for rural fiber-optic infrastructure, and Jessica Hightower at Linn County Economic Development for putting together a comprehensive (request for proposals) to address the needs of Linn County residents," Terry said.

In his remarks, Commission Chair McCullough said when the county was first approached by KwiKom about the project, he wasn’t aware of the need for broadband in the western part of the county. However, when COVID hit, that’s when it became apparent how important high-speed internet was.

Initially unsure what to do with federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds that targeted expansion of internet to underserved areas, the commission put out requests for proposals to expand service. KwiKom was quick to jump on that, and McCullough said he appreciated that.

“I thought it was going to be impossible to find a contractor that would come in and drill through a bunch of rock,” he said.

But when KwiKom came in with a strong proposal to do the project, McCullough said he was amazed.

“I’m thankful for you guys, and I now know how important the internet is to our community,” he said. “I’m happy to work with you guys in the future. You’ve done an amazing job.”

He added that, on behalf of the commission, the county is very pleased with KwiKom and what they have done.

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