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Wilson aims for full fiber optics network

POSTED: August 26, 2011 7:00 a.m.

 Thanks to a $14.3 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Wilson Communications will now be able to continue its multi-year effort of providing fiber-optic cable internet service to all of its customers.
 “The purpose of the loan is to continue building our network, so we can place fiber-optic cable all the way to the homes of all of our customers,” said the company’s Brian Boisvert.
Boisvert said Wilson Communications has been adding fiber-optics to its network since 2002.
“As of 2008, we’ve completed what is known as fiber to the node — fiber from our main office out to a certain point in the countryside,” he said. “From that point to the customer’s house, the existing copper network provided the service.”
This allowed Wilson Communications to provide current generation broadband or high-speed internet to all of its customers.
“This next phase, which we’ve taken this loan out to complete, will now take that fiber all the way to the home of every customer, including businesses and residences,” Boisvert said.
He said two exchanges on the multi-year project have been completed so far — Tipton and Lucas. The Wilson Lake area has also is done.
“The next one we plan to build is Brookville to the east,” Boisvert said. “It will probably be a four to five year project. Most likely, Wilson will come after Brookville.”
The belief in offering the same technical capabilities to people living in rural Kansas as those of people living in urban areas of the United States is what drove Wilson Communication to apply for the loan.
“It really is called for in the Telecommunications Act of 1996,” Boisvert said. “The law calls for comparable services and comparable rates. That’s why we build these networks. We want to offer comparable services, and these networks cost millions of dollars to build.”
Part of what makes the effort possible is the Universal Service Fund, a federally mandated fund, which has the goal of providing telecommunication services to all regions of the country.
“The cost to build these networks is extremely high. With such a low-density population, there is not a business case that can cover your costs and still sell the service at a comparable rate. The Universal Service Fund makes that possible,” Boisvert said.
One concern he has is that the Federal Communications Commission is rewriting the Universal Service Fund rules to cover broadband.
“We applaud that,” he said. “But we are very concerned that the rules could hurt rural Kansas. We are working very actively and closely with the FCC [and] our congressional delegation to ensure the rules are written correctly. It’s so important to preserve what we have done throughout rural Kansas, and what is needed down the road in order to keep our communities strong, to attract businesses, to attract our youth back to our towns — these are all goals of building this high technology network.”
Boisvert said Wilson Communications has always stayed on the cutting edge of technology.
“Sadly, some of the larger firms build their technology within the large urban areas, but they don’t take that technology out to their smaller, more rural exchanges,” he said. “For us, this is our business — to make sure these small communities stay healthy. So we always have and will continue, provided that Universal Service Funding support stays in place, to build these cutting-edge networks.”  
Boisvert said fiber-optic cable was chosen, because it “is by far the most reliable and the most future-proof of any other medium.”
“It can carry virtually unlimited bandwidth,” he said. “And we know as time goes on, with use of the internet for business, rural health care, education, leisure activities, entertainment — all of the things we now do and will continue to do — the need for more bandwidth is only going to go up.”
Boisvert said Wilson Communication wants to build a network that will carry it well into the future.
“And that’s what the fiber-optic network will do,” he added.
So far, between 600 to 700 Wilson Communication customers have been provided fiber all the way to their homes.
“Ultimately, we serve around 1,600 customers, spread over 1,000 square miles,” Boisvert said. “So we’re very low density, very high cost, because we’ve got to put a lot of fiber in the ground to reach these customers. But fiber is the only medium that will give us the bandwidth we ultimately need. This technology will be equal to any technology available anywhere in the nation, and in the world for that matter. It’s going to be high-speed internet, very reliable service. We think that’s what our customers deserve. That’s what we are all about.”

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