Marne Elk Horn accepts $4.5M award to expand internet | Audubon

ELK HORN – Officials with Marne Elk Horn received a $4.5 million in grant funds from the Empower Rural Iowa Broadband Grant program to expand internet into the city of Neola, service areas near Underwood and Exira.

According to Rachel Hamilton, CEO of Marne Elk Horn, in 2022 the company will complete the fiber project in the City of Neola, which it started in 2021 as part of the company’s vision to serve all customers in their services areas with fiber. Also next year, they will begin work in the community of Exira and the Iowa grant awarded area near Underwood (see map for details of the project area). The company already has fiber to the community and rural areas of Brayton, Elk Horn, Marne, McClelland, Kimballton, and Walnut. Additionally, in the communities (and some rural areas) of Avoca, Underwood and Neola.

“Projects like this are tremendous for customers and exciting for us to do, and we’re pleased to announce details of all we have been working on,” said Hamilton. “It’s important to remember that under normal circumstances projects of this size take a couple of construction seasons to complete. Right now things aren’t normal. It’s more difficult to acquire materials, electronics and contractor crews, which impacts our ability to build these projects as quickly as we’d like. But we won’t let that hinder our efforts.”

Today, broadband (fiber Internet) is as important as electricity was in the 1930s. The disparity of available broadband Internet offerings across the state has left many rural residents and businesses without the reliable, ultra-fast fiber Internet that most Marne Elk Horn customers already have. This fact was exacerbated and exposed further by the pandemic when people needed to work and attend school from home.

“Rural Underwood is in need of internet options and upgrades in order for our regional community to stay progressive and competitive with the shift to remote workforce and the need for speed to run more technologically advanced applications. Marne Elk Horn’s project will meet this need, and we are thrilled,” said Angie and Jim J. of rural Underwood. “Marne Elk Horn’s investment will also benefit Underwood Schools and our rural student population.”

Zach Kerber, who has Marne Elk Horn service at his machine and design shop in McClelland said, “I was very happy to hear that they are expanding their fiber and soon I’ll be able to get service from them at my home. At the office, Marne Elk Horn saved us from very poor service from a previous provider, and I can’t wait to have Marne Elk Horn fiber at home too.”

Hamilton said that Marne Elk Horn is excited to continue to bridge broadband gaps with these projects, some made possible only because of grant funds.

“Because of the tremendous cost to build fiber networks, without grants or other low-cost funding sources, it would be tough to make a business case to build fiber into these rural neighborhoods,” stated Hamilton.

“The Marne Elk Horn team is excited about 2022. We know our fiber projects will positively impact the day-to-day activities of rural residents who live here and we can’t wait to welcome you to our services and team. If you live in one of these areas you will be hearing more from us soon,” concluded Hamilton.

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