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Fiber’s Necessity in Rural America

Fiber’s Necessity in Rural America 

While some question the necessity of fiber in rural areas, current FBA Board Chair Jimmy Todd refutes that position from long-held, real-world experience. As CEO and General Manager of Nex-Tech, a communications service provider in northwest Kansas, he’s seen the essential need for fiber to deliver education, health care, and economic progress in America’s heartland over the past decade. 

“Nex-Tech was the first to bring fiber to a rural community,” said Todd. “At the time, people didn’t like the fact we wanted to deploy fiber because that was perceived to be ‘Gold plating.’ But looking at the future and asking where are we going, where we needed to be, fiber made sense. We knew that fiber was the future, we can’t look backwards.” 

Policy makers often are focused on the “right now,” rather than where we need to be in a few years, leading to policy, regulation, and decision-making that’s delayed, said Todd, but “technology doesn’t wait” and rural communities need the benefits that fiber delivers to schools, public safety, healthcare, and businesses. 

“A small business in rural Kansas can have customers all over the world, not just in their small town,” Todd said. “It used to be the only way [a small business] could survive was by the local residents. Now you have an online presence, you have connectivity, and can provide your services or your product all over the world. It really makes a difference when you have that available in our rural areas.” 

Fiber provides reliable, high-speed, low-latency broadband to the local hospital, enabling it to provide specialist care, while the schools can connect into the state broadband network to access universities and other educational resources. For one local dairy, Nex-Tech extended fiber so it could do business with Danone North America, the producer of Dannon Yogurt. The payoff was significant. 

“They had an opportunity to provide their product to Dannon,” said Todd. “They needed fiber connectivity, to have that connection with Dannon and to monitor what was going on with the operation with the milk product, help with how they fed [the cows], all these different things that are hugely important for the quality that they have to maintain. That business has significantly grown in the past decade. They’ve started another location, they’ve more than doubled the size of their operation, and they would have never been able to do that without fiber.” 

To learn more about fiber and its impact upon rural communities and how it unlocks the productivity of precision agriculture, listen to the latest Fiber For Breakfast podcast.