Construction Updates

Dec. 9th, 2020 –

The COVID pandemic has shifted life in so many ways, including accentuating the lack of accessible and affordable internet access and limiting the activities we can enjoy in our leisure time.

In partnership with Kansas State Parks, IdeaTek is deploying free Wi-Fi hotspots within areas of Cheney State Park and Sand Hills State Park to expand high-speed broadband to locations that can be easily accessed by the public.

Today, IdeaTek contractors, including Richard Smitty with Sasnak of El Dorado, are hard at work direct burying fiber optic cable and boring under roadways around the lake to get the job done by Dec. 30.

“More and more people are working from home,” Smitty said. “Someone can come out to the lake and work from their camper and still have internet.”

Free Wi-Fi is especially helpful for low income and transient Kansans who may find themselves in mobile living situations as a cost-savings alternative. Access to quality, consistent connectivity allows them to work, attend school, or take part in other remote activities without disruption.

Drawing broadband users into parks with Wi-Fi is also a healthy option for Kansans. People are looking for ways to stay active while social distancing. Wi-Fi enabled public state parks offer safe, outdoor, physical activities that will keep Kansans healthy, while providing connectivity at the same time.

Work also continues near the lake to bring residents in an area of limited internet access a fast, reliable connection. Along a county road, G&G Boring and Trenching employees were direct burying fiber optic cable in areas where it wasn’t as rocky. In rocky areas, the process was more extensive, with the crew first installing orange conduit then pulling through the fiber.

John Murrow, an employee with IdeaTek, was following the team, splicing the fiber together at points every three miles. Splicing is one of the last steps before connecting residential households.

One nearby resident stopped by as Murrow worked, expressing his appreciation, adding there is limited connection in the area.

“I’m glad we can bring them a smile,” Murrow said. “I enjoy coming to these rural communities. Almost every day someone will stop and talk to us about what we are doing.” 

Thank you to the Kansas Department of Commerce for the opportunity to provide this service through the Broadband Partnership Adoption Grant.

Dec. 3rd, 2020 – 

For the Flint Hills town of Elmdale’s 60-some residents, the dark age of dialup and slow internet speeds will soon be a thing of the past.

Along Highway 50 near the Chase County town, a crew was plowing in conduit into the rocky terrain — a job that started along the banks of the Cottonwood River in Cottonwood Falls and will end in Florence. In Elmdale, Jeff Meyer, with Meyer Electrical of Stafford, plowed in conduit through an alley and installed pedestals and vaults. He had recently finished work in nearby Cedar Point.

By the first of the year, technology will be spiraling across Chase County, thanks to IdeaTek’s efforts to bring high-speed internet to even the most remote areas of Kansas.

However, unlike other areas of Kansas, the county’s flint and limestone landscape creates challenges, said Karl McMillan, a project manager with Vision Utility Service who is overseeing some of the county’s project.

For instance, while southwest Kansas crews can plow fiber optic cable directly into the ground, McMillan said they must first bore in the orange conduit.

“You don’t want to direct bury fiber into rock,” he said. Instead, another crew will follow the same path, blowing in backbone fiber — the trunk line that connects the fiber running from homes and businesses — into the piping.

As 2020 comes to a close, another crew will finish the task of splicing cable — one of the final steps to connecting residents.

For now, crews continue to lay the groundwork. On Thursday, while one of his crews trekked toward Florence plowing in conduit, McMillan and his team bored conduit for the backbone fiber installation along Highway 177 in Strong City.

They also continued missile boring conduit along residential streets in town. This technique bores horizontally underground with minimal disruption to the surface.

“Cedar Point, Elmdale, Strong City – all these little towns will soon have high-speed internet availability,” McMillan said.

Nov. 27th, 2020 – It’s a tall order to put transmitters atop the tallest structure in Macksville.

Yet, at over 120-feet high, the Stafford County Flour Mills’ grain elevator is the perfect location to place equipment when you are working to bring IdeaTek’s high-speed wireless internet to the town of 530 people.

Macksville is one of dozens of communities across rural Kansas where IdeaTek’s new AirLight fixed wireless technology is being installed, said Ardell Yoder, the Buhler-based company’s fixed wireless manager.

More rural areas are finding internet freedom thanks to the fixed-wireless option.

“With wireless, we can, at a reasonable cost, bring high-speed internet to the underserved areas that have kind of been forgotten,” Yoder said.

The system involves a receiver on the outside of a house or building and a cable that runs inside the home to a router. The receiver gets a signal from the transmission equipment, which can be placed atop water towers, radio towers and, more commonly, grain elevators.

The transmitters are small, lightweight and have minimal power consumption. Signals span a circle that reaches five to eight miles, depending on conditions, Yoder said.

AirLight can deliver speeds of up to 100 Mbps. It’s a winning system that brings fast internet to the region at a reasonable price.

Yoder said residents have been excited to learn their area is receiving the AirLight technology.

“Rarely do we not get community support because everybody wants better internet,” he said. “They all want higher speeds and higher availability.”

Residents can work from home, he said. Kids can go to school remotely. Small business owners can run their companies.

“And they still have the privilege of living in rural Kansas,” he said. “That’s where I live.”

Nov. 23, 2020 – A cable train chugged through the stubble of a freshly cut southwest Kansas cornfield Friday, laying the groundwork for high-speed internet.

Not far from the town of Bloom in Ford County, the train of three dozers – two of which were pulling the caboose – or a smaller cable plow – moved slowly along Highway 54, plowing in rolls of fiber optic cable underground. Because the ground is so hard, the 750 horsepower machines are needed to pull the cable plow the 23-mile stretch from Minneola to Bucklin, said Garrett Speer, owner of Speer Construction of Garden City, one of the companies helping IdeaTek bring fast and reliable internet to the rural landscape by the end of the year.

Another cable train was operating near the community of Ford, he said.

It will take them several more days before the job is done, said Phillip Morgan, with GW Oilfield of Dighton who was driving one of the dozers. If everything goes well, they can get two or three miles of cable drilled in a day.

Nov. 19, 2020 –

Speed is critical.

Jim Cooper, the area manager for Olathe-based Universal Communications, noted this as he and his crew bored alongside a streetin the Reno Countytown of Pretty Prairie. They were funneling orange conduit into the ground to make way for fiber optic cable installation thatwill soon give residents herethe fastestinternet connectionavailable.

These small communities have suffered because of lack of high-speed internet,Cooper said. So many people these days are doing business from homeSmall businessesare hampered by the fact that theycannot compete with the businesses inothercommunities.

His crew was one of many working Thursday to connect underserved areas of rural KansasIn nearby Arlington, a crew with RND Underground of Derby directional bored under Highway 61. Anotherteam with the company was working to pull fiber through the conduit.

Luis Rodriguez, with G&G Boring and Trenching of Wichita, said he and his crew had been working the past two weeks directional boring and installing conduit in Arlington. On Thursdaythey also were placing vaults, which serve as a point for incoming cable.

Their Arlington project is about halfway completed, he said. In a few weeks, theywillclean up the worksite, plant new grass where the dirt was turned over, and then move to a new location along the Reno and Kingman countyline. 

These little towns need this, Rodriquez said.

Nov. 13, 2020 – Along U.S. Highway 50 near Spearville, amid a backdrop of wind turbines and green wheat, Robert Kerns and his crew were working to bring high-speed internet to the Kansas High Plains – one mile at a time.

“I think we can get two more miles in today,” said Kerns, a foreman with Ty Contracting of Hutchinson, on Friday afternoon. He added, “It’s a huge, huge project. There isn’t reliable internet service in a lot of places out here.” 

For the past three weeks, the Hutchinson company has been plowing fiber optic cable into the ground. They started at Kinsley in Edwards County, heading west on what will be a 40-mile trek toward Ford, a town of 217 people located southeast of Dodge City.

Ty Contracting is among several teams laying miles of fiber optic cable in the region – helping IdeaTek provide rural Kansas quality internet connectivity.
Between Bucklin and Ford, Speer Construction employees were checking holes along the highway so they could start plowing cable on Monday.
At Ford, Daniel Sickler and a crew with SpliceCo, a Wichita company, began the process of installing 15,000 feet of aerial fiber on electrical poles across the community. He thought they should have the job completed by Thursday.

“This is great what IdeaTek is doing,” Sickler said, adding, “All residents should be able to have the same opportunities” for high-speed internet.

Nov. 11, 2020 – As temperatures dipped below freezing Wednesday morning, four crews began working to bring IdeaTek’s high-speed fiber internet to Kansas’ Flint Hills.

One crew started boring under the Cottonwood River Bridge outside of the Chase County seat town of Cottonwood Falls – a project expected to take several days due to the county’s rugged flint and limestone terrain. Another crew worked in a residential area in nearby Strong City using a process called missile boring to connect each household. This technique bores horizontally underground with minimal disruption to the surface.

“This is day one of getting the conduit in the ground in this area,” said Karl McMillan, a project manager with Vision Utility Service overseeing the crews.

He added his crews will zig-zag along county roads from Strong City to Florence over the next several weeks laying conduit. Following the conduit installation, a team will begin placing fiber optic cable into the conduit to connect the county of 2,700.

“The timeline is the end of the year,” McMillan said. “We’re working hard to get it done.”

Nov. 2, 2020 – Our crews in Western Reno County are making significant progress on fiber installation. Today, one of our crews was able to lay fiber in the entire town of Langdon. This included boring and digging into the ground, laying conduit, and then placing the fiber optic cable inside the conduit. The project also included installing fiber pedestals, or the posts that stand up in your neighborhood, similar to an electrical post. This crew will move to the City of Arlington tomorrow and repeat this process there.

Another crew was working to cover a significant area of ground between Arlington and Abbyville, working to lay fiber along the roadside to connect these two communities to our network. This crew was doing a masterful job of neatly boring on the side of the ditch. Their cuts were so clean you could not even tell they where they had been.

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Headquartered in Buhler, Kan., Ideatek is a broadband service provider with the mission of “fighting for INTERNET FREEDOM™.” IdeaTek uses a unique and innovative approach to deploy scalable, long-term fiber optic infrastructures, bridging the broadband gap in rural communities. IdeaTek has long been a state and national advocate for broadband equity policy and has built nearly 4,500 miles of fiber throughout Kansas. They were recently named to Inc. 5000’s list of fastest growing companies for the seventh time.

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