Rural Cedar Falls residents included in broadband expansion - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Rural Cedar Falls residents included in broadband expansion

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CEDAR FALLS (KWWL) -

High-speed internet is a service many of us use daily.  In rural parts of Iowa, though, getting a fast, reliable internet connection is anything but easy.  But now, one eastern Iowa community will soon be online with new, fast service.  It's thanks to a broadband expansion project Cedar Falls Utilities has underway.

Gary Wenzel likes to use the internet for work and fun.  But living in rural Cedar Falls, getting anything accomplished online isn't easy with less-than-fast web speed.

"But the biggest impact I have is just on emails.  If you send an email back and forth, it's not bad.  If you have an attachment, that's any kind of size, if you're sending it especially, you literally leave and come back an hour later to see if it's done," Wenzel said.

So when Wenzel learned Cedar Falls Utilities was looking to expand high-speed internet to rural parts of its service area, he jumped on board. 

"I'm very excited.  I even called and volunteered to be a beta site to the point they agreed to it.  I've already got the pole cemented in the ground," Wenzel said.

To get rural residents like Wenzel connected, CFU is installing three wireless internet towers across its service area.  The towers, combined with fiber optic cable connections, will provide high-speed connections to nearly a thousand customers.

"It's taken quite a while to get to the point where we're able to build it.  And starting this week, we're actually extending out internet services to rural parts of Cedar Falls, that's north of Cedar Falls almost to Janesville and west of Cedar Falls almost to New Hartford," said Betty Zeman with Cedar Falls Utilities.

CFU's broadband expansion project is made possible by federal grants, covering 40 percent of the $2.3 million price tag.

When complete, rural customers will be able to get the same web browsing speed that people within Cedar Falls city limits get, for the same price:  under $50 a month.

"Both households and businesses don't think of internet service as an option any more.  It's just something you have to have for modern life, of course especially to run a business.  But even in the home, people just expect and need to have fast access to the internet.  So we're awfully please to bring that service to a place that really hasn't had it before," said Zeman.

The first phase of the broadband expansion will take about three months.  The second phase, including the placement of fiber optic lines, will wrap up by next summer.

The new wireless towers will also include an added bonus:  technology to read electric meters remotely, allowing CFU to save money by not having to send meter readers to rural areas.  That system will means the utility company will know instantly if rural customers have a power outage.

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