We have watched Cedar Falls Utilities (CFU) for the past several years as they upgraded their cable to fiber and started expanding their municipal network outside town limits. The Iowa water, electricity, and telecom utility just commenced further expansion to bring broadband to more rural residents through wireless and fiber with a broadband stimulus award.
Tina Hinz, at the WCF Courier, covered the story. Three new towers and more fiber installation will bring broadband service that is comparable to the connections in town to rural locations. Construction and customer installation should be completed by mid-2013.
According to Hinz:
CFU received final approval last month on a federal grant to fund nearly 40 percent of the $2.3 million installation cost. This reduces the high per-customer cost of building a communications system in an area with lower housing density. Customers will pay a similar price as those in town.
A PDF map of the rural expansion is available on the CFU website. CFU also provides a recent PDF map of their fiber-to-the-premises project, which is 70% complete.
Hinz spoke with rural customer Chris Hansen, who is in line for service through the new expansion.
Hansen called the development "a godsend." Recently he moved a mile west of the city limits on University Avenue. Accessing the web from his phone is functional but slow, he said.
Hansen has the wireless option, which will assist with his business as a sales representative for Bertch Cabinets and in his work on the family farm. He said he may subscribe to Netflix, which streams movies and television programs, and the Internet will benefit his twin children, Christian and Carina, 13, who currently share one phone with Internet.
The expansion will also allow CFU to improve electric service in rural areas and reduce loss due to outage and operational costs:
In addition, the wireless towers will serve two-way electric meters CFU is installing in the rural area. The digital meters will provide immediate reports of electric outages so crews can respond faster. They also will reduce meter reading costs, as a CFU employee will no longer need to visit rural properties to collect usage information. Lower costs help hold rates down.