ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Hillsboro-area households and businesses soon will have access to high-speed broadband Internet service through a linkage between Prairie iNet, Cooperative Grain & Supply’s Team Marketing Alliance and the Hillsboro Free Press.
Prairie iNet, the service provider, is an Iowa-based company created in 2000 to provide Internet service to rural areas by using grain elevators to transmit radio-wave frequencies to customers.
No telephone lines are required, but each customer will need a license-plate-shaped antenna and an unobstructed line-of-sight view of the community broadcast antenna mounted atop the CG&S elevator to catch the radiowave signal.
Rural residents within a four-mile radius of the broadcast antenna can also tap into the service.
According to company materials, Prairie iNet will offer residential customers speeds up to 128 kilobytes per second-four times faster than conventional dial-up services- for around $40 a month, plus an initial installation fee.
A second package, for residences and business with multiple computers, offers speeds up to 256 Kbps for around $65 a month, plus the installation fee.
Faster speeds are available, depending on the customer’s need.
The service is online at all times.
The Hillsboro Free Press will be the service reseller in Hillsboro and the immediate area. Gene’s Travel & Video of Marion will also be a reseller.
“It’s high time Hillsboro gets this kind of Internet service,” said Joel Klaassen, Free Press publisher. “A lot of businesses are involved with the Web, and 56K speed just doesn’t cut it for a lot of people. This service will put us on par with the rest of the world.”
The specific date for launching the service has not been determined yet, Klaassen said, but Prairie iNet’s “Bus Blitz” will be parked in front of the Free Press offices July 26 to offer a live demonstration of the service to interested people.
The Prairie iNet network links about 125 communities in Iowa and Illinois through microwave frequencies between communities. In late November, the company forged a partnership with UtiliCorp Communications Services in Kansas City, which gave Prairie iNet the funding commitments need to expand services into Nebraska, Minnesota and Kansas by the end of 2001.
Prairie iNet is already available in Buhler, Canton, Galva, Halstead, Haven, Hesston, Hutchinson, Lyons, McPherson, Moundridge, Nickerson, North Newton and Sterling.