Hillsboro residents will begin seeing improvements in their broadband service, according to information presented Friday by Dennis Weese, Eagle Communications community relations and product development director.
About 30 people attended the meeting at Hillsboro City Hall to hear the latest updates in technology related to Internet service, telephone and cable television through the Hays-based company.
The discussion about broadband concerns initially started with Clint Seibel, executive director of the Hillsboro Development Corp. and Joel Klaassen publisher of the Hillsboro Free Press.
“I met Clint about a year ago when we both signed in at a (Kansas) Rural Opportunity Conference,” Weese said. “Clint was there to learn about how to help Hillsboro grow and I said, ‘Great, so am I.’”
The opportunity for growth, Reese said, is governed by the ability to be positioned as a community to serve broadband up effectively.
“It’s an opportunity for Hillsboro to prosper as a small community in Kansas,” he said.
When Eagle Communications started investing in broadband about eight years ago, Weese said, it hired Internet providers like himself.
“Our primary passion was as a broadband company to do economic revitalization,” he said.
Many people might ask why a broadband company is interested in economic development, he said.
“We are realists,” Weese said. “We recognize if institutions and citizens of a town don’t prosper, then what are our chances—pretty low.”
Two larger projects Eagle has taken on included Tabor College and Parkside Homes.
“We are still working out some issues,” he said, “but it’s the quality of life being the chief reason why people move to a town and open a business.”
It is the reason, he said, “the Clints of the world” are looking for things and they came to Eagle.
“We are capable of solving about any business problem that Hillsboro could propose to us,” Weese said.
Citing Tabor College as a good example of this, Weese said he asked college officials to give him their vision of a three-year plan for broadband and they did.
In response to the college’s plan, he said Eagle could meet its third-year requirements from Day 1 and at a price the college is paying today.
One of the main reasons Weese said Eagle is able to do this is because of its lease with Technology Excellence in Education Network or TEEN Interlocal 632, created for Centre USD 397, Herington USD 487, Hillsboro USD?410, Peabody USD?398 and Marion USD 408.
TEEN was created in 1992 for the purpose of Interactive Distance Learning or IDL, which allows districts to share teachers and offer classes to students from other schools.
“The schools work together to deliver services to their schools and they had some excess fiber capacity,” Weese said. “Eagle has been a customer of TEEN for a long time now.”
It is through the relationship with TEEN, he said, that allows Eagle to transport data in and out of the regions served.
“We are doing more things in communities like Hillsboro to make the system more modern,” he said.
A year ago, Eagle had one node in Hillsboro, which Weese described as “a little thing that sits on the end of fiber optic cable, comes out on coaxial cable and starts distributing everything in your town that comes off coax—cable modem, Internet and telephone service.”
That one node, he said, served every house in Hillsboro that wanted service from Eagle.
“Our map said there were 1,100 homes in Hillsboro and we think there are more like 1,600 homes,” Weese said. “That is a 1,600 to one relationship.”
Eagle’s plan was to split a node and have two in town, which he said effectively divided it.
“This change came directly out of a meeting with Clint and Joel, who said (Hillsboro) is not getting enough cable modem speed and we think there is some congestion,” he said.
From that data, Weese said Eagle is now putting two more nodes in Hillsboro, again to regionalize the neighborhoods of the town.
A little over a year ago, he said, from where Eagle was until now, it has built about four times the capacity inside the coaxial cable wiring for residential customers in Hillsboro.
“That was simply a reaction to what Clint (and Joel) were looking for,” he said. “They were looking for performance so that people would be happy with Internet speeds and that is how you do it in a coaxial system.”
According to Weese, Eagle started segregating neighborhoods into smaller blocks because there is more usage from each house in those blocks.
Another project Eagle has done involved the industrial area.
“We built infrastructure from the downtown to industrial area,” he said. “We went to those businesses and listed to their needs, had roundtable discussions and we made them a proposal.”
Thus far, one of those businesses is a customer today, he said.
“We are business people,” Weese said, “with business plans, and we prefer private business outcomes.”
The biggest question residents need to ask is what do they use their Internet service for and how much true performance do they need?
“Following up that question,” he said, “is what can they pay for?”
For almost three weeks, Eagle personnel are going door-to-door, in Hillsboro performing an audit of what is actually happening in the city regarding broadband.
“Part of any progress toward delivering more bandwidth and a better product, clearer picture, more high definition and most importantly more bandwidth to your cable modem has to start with cleanup of your town,” he said.
Personnel are working to clean wiring, checking stuff hanging off poles or attached to people’s houses and leakage issues to deliver more bandwidth.
In addition to Hillsboro, Eagle Communication offers broadband services to Marion, Florence and Lincolnville.
A link to a video taken by Eagle Communications from the Aug. 24 meeting will be on the Free Press website: www.hillsborofreepress.com, as soon as it is available, probably in the next few days.
For more information about the meeting or broadband, call customer support at 877-613-2453 or Internet technical support at 877-625-9901.