Chanute first built a vision, then a network. The fiber network connects schools and other community anchor institutions with gigabit networks. The wireless network serves public safety. Soon, both may serve everyone.
The “Hub of southeast Kansas” is a small town where schools have gigabit connections, the City operates a 10Gbps fiber-optic broadband ring, and several local businesses credit the publicly owned utility with giving them the best broadband option available. Chanute has made impressive strides in solving its broadband problems by developing innovative partnerships with local businesses and community anchor institutions.
Local businesses are strong supporters of the network. From Ash Grove Cement to MagnaTech, business clients have remained satisfied subscribers. The network continues to encourage economic development and provides connectivity options that attract high bandwidth employers. The network generates $600,000 per year for Chanute’s Electric Utility, 5 percent of which goes to the general fund as a franchising fee each year.
Author Christopher Mitchell, Director of the Telecommunications as Commons Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, believes Chanute can offer valuable lessons to other communities across the United States. “This community has demonstrated that communities can meet their own telecommunications needs with smart public investments — they did not wait for national corporations to solve their problems.”
City Manager J.D. Lester refers to municipal broadband as “the great equalizer for Rural America,” saying: “You don’t have to live in Kansas City to work there.”
The City also operates a 4G WiMAX network that connects public safety and is used to feed Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the community.
Local leaders plan to expand the network to offer access to all residents and businesses in the future as extending it become financially feasible. As it expands, it will offer the potential for smart-grid type investments in the gas, water, and electrical utilities — all of which are owned and operated by the local government.
Read ongoing coverage related to these networks at ILSR’s site devoted to Community Broadband Networks. You can also subscribe to a once-per-week email with stories about community broadband networks.