Chugging Along the FTTH Train in Chanute

In Chanute, the “Hub of Southeast Kansas” named in honor of railroad engineer and aviation pioneer Octave Chanute, the track this small city of approximately 9,100 is on to build its Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network is a long one.

It began back in 1984 when the city’s utility department installed four miles of fiber optic cable to monitor and control its electric grid. The project was almost derailed in 2015 when three new Chanute City Commissioners voted to halt a $16.4 million bond issuance moments after they were sworn into office. City officials also had to contend with AT&T, which offered DSL service in the region. Aiming to stave off competition, the telecom giant petitioned the Kansas Corporation Commission to enforce a 1947 state law that requires permission from the state to issue bonds for utility projects.

Today, however, thanks to $1.6 million from the state – part of a $50 million statewide Connectivity Emergency Response Grant established in October 2020 by Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly in response to the COVID 19 crisis – Chanute is chugging toward a citywide build-out neighborhood-by-neighborhood.

Nearly Complete

Construction to further expand the network began at the Google mural at the intersection of Lincoln and Main, which commemorates the city’s distinction of being the center of the earth on Google Maps for Apple computers thanks to the fact that the software developer, Dan Webb, was from Chanute.

The current take-rate for the area from Main Street to 7th and Santa Fe to as far over as Katy Ave is 30%, IT Director Chris Stogsdill told us this week. “We are at about 33% for our take rate in the area from 3rd Street to 14th Street and right at about 53% in the Hillside/Sunset Subdivisions,” he added, noting that residential customers are getting 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) speed with no data caps for $75 a month.

“We have three active FTTH areas with about 310 total customers activated and a possible 640 more for a total of approximately 950 customers possible in these three areas. This includes our currently just activated neighborhood from Main Street to 7th and Santa Fe to as far over as Katy Ave,” Stogsdill said. The city has about 3,800 households, making the citywide buildout roughly a quarter of the way done.

Across the city’s  seven square miles, Chanute has 13 Passive Optical Network (PON) areas left to engineer.

What laid the groundwork for the FTTH network dates back to 2001 when the utility’s managers were upgrading the utility systems network and opted to overbuild in anticipation of extending fiber connections to homes and businesses, the late Chanute Utilities Director Larry Gates told The Hutchison News in 2018.

“We have an awful lot of city services – lift stations, water intake, water treatment, sewer treatment, even Wi-Fi in the parks,” Gates said. “Those are all connected by fiber optic. We also do a lot of security monitoring, with cameras in key locations.”

“The routes we took are where we put junction boxes,” he said. “We did it next to the schools and junior college and the hospital. For the simple reason we started talking about getting them onto our fiber optic network is how we got started being an ISP (internet service provider.)”

For more on how Chanute got started, read our 2013 report Chanute's Gig: One Rural Kansas Community's Tradition of Innovation Led to a Gigabit and Ubiquitous Wireless Coverage.