AC Skyways, a division of Allamakee-Clayton Electric Cooperative, has announced it is the recipient of an Empower Rural Iowa Emergency Broadband Expansion grant to expand on an already planned fiber-to-the-home project on the west side of Waukon, with the construction of the first phase of the project to start later this month. The routes of the two planned phases for the project are outlined by orange and black lines in the two map images to the left of this article.
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it became evident how vital reliable, high-speed internet is for telelearning, telehealth and teleworking. “We received overwhelming inquiries from people desperate to find a reliable internet service for their children to learn remotely and for them to telework,” said Hollee McCormick, general manager of Allamkee-Clayton Electric Cooperative. “Our Skyways staff, who have been offering wireless broadband internet to rural Allamakee and Fayette counties since 2014, responded quickly to navigate the unexpected challenge. Many people discovered that the internet service in their home did not have the speed and reliability required to keep up, so our Skyways staff worked long hours to install internet service and the technicians continued throughout the summer expanding the infrastructure to increase bandwidth, allowing more customers to access uninterrupted internet.”
In addition to satellite and wireless internet, the Cooperative will soon be dipping its toes into fiber internet, with a fiber-to-the-home project in west Waukon. “The Cooperative had plans to build a fiber-optic connection between a vault along Iron Mine Drive, north of Waukon, to our Ludlow substation, southwest of Waukon, and the fiber route went right through northwest Waukon,” explained McCormick. “We didn’t want to pass up an opportunity to utilize that fiber and offer fiber-optic service to 95 homes and businesses along the fiber route. Allamakee-Clayton has worked closely with the City of Waukon since 2016 as they’ve explored ways to bring reliable, high-speed internet to the town, and this particular fiber project is the first step to an answer to their call.”
When Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds announced in July that Iowa would make $50 million in federal CARES Act funding available for broadband internet expansion, the Cooperative made application to expand on its already planned fiber project. Internet service providers were given a short window of time to apply for funding to expand broadband service to underserved parts of the state.
“Rachelle Howe and staff at Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission were instrumental in writing two grants on behalf of Allamakee-Clayton,” commented McCormick. “The Cooperative was ultimately notified by the Broadband Grants Program-Empower Rural Iowa Emergency Broadband Expansion Program that it was awarded nearly $535,000 to expand the planned fiber-to-the-home project, which will be split into two phases due to the availability of supplies and contractors’ schedules.”
“Although a second application via the Economic Development Authority for a proposed project involving the installation of fiber optic cable to downtown Waukon was not selected for funding, we are hopeful we can reapply with the assistance again from Upper Explorerland staff with a more favorable application that is selected for funding,” McCormick explained. “Connected communities become thriving, future-ready communities, and deploying technology is necessary for growth and success, and now, more than ever, homes and businesses need high-speed, reliable internet.”
Homes and businesses along the planned fiber route for both phases of the fiber internet project should have recently received a letter from Allamakee-Clayton Electric Cooperative explaining the construction and service activation timelines. For additional information, visit https://www.acrec.com or call 563-864-7611 or toll free 1-888-788-1551.
Phase 1-A of the project (highlighted in the left map on Page 1 in this edition of The Standard) is scheduled to begin the week of Thanksgiving and will involve installation of fiber from Iron Mine Drive south along State Highway 76 into Waukon to West Main Street, as well as all City streets both north of West Main Street and west of State Highway 76/Ninth Street NW, and extending further west on West Main Street from its intersection with Ninth Street NW to and along Bluebird Road southwest of Waukon.
Phase 1-B of the project (highlighted in the right map on Page 1 in this edition of The Standard) is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2021 and will be along the southwest edge of Waukon, connecting with the West Main Street portion of Phase 1-A and heading south along Ninth Street SW toward State Highway 9. The fiber will also be deployed along the industrial and residential developments on the west side of Ninth Street SW, as well as along Eleventh Avenue SW toward Waukon City Park and along the most southern portion of Second Street SW to the current Park Place residential development.
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