State

Kansas Corporation Commission approves Chanute public broadband

Chanute utilities director Larry Gates with part of the city's broadband system at City Hall.
Chanute utilities director Larry Gates with part of the city's broadband system at City Hall. The Wichita Eagle

The city of Chanute is free to set up the state’s first publicly run ultra-high speed Internet service to area homes and small businesses.

The service the city is planning has a download speed of 1 gigabit and is projected to cost $40 a month for city residents. That’s 14 times faster and 60 percent cheaper than the fastest Internet service that Chanute residents can get now.

The speed would be as fast as the Google Fiber network being deployed in the Kansas City metropolitan area – and 42 percent cheaper for the customers.

The Kansas Corporation Commission on Tuesday morning approved the city of Chanute’s request for approval to issue bonds.

Commissioner Pat Apple questioned why the commission was even required to consider the matter, because it is an unregulated service anyway.

The commission approval was the final hurdle before the city could issue bonds, buy equipment and begin hooking residents up to its existing Internet service.

The city needed the KCC approval under terms of a 1947 law that requires the commission to review plans by municipalities to borrow money using bond financing to construct, expand or improve service.

The purpose of the law was primarily to protect bond investors and prevent duplication of services offered by the private sector.

The KCC staff had recommended approval because the service the city wants to offer is superior to broadband service provided by AT&T and Cable One in Chanute.

AT&T intervened in the Chanute case but did not file any testimony in opposition before the 10 a.m. hearing.

The commission decision in Chanute could have wider implications across the state. Earlier this year, Chanute and Kansas City joined forces to beat back a bill – written and provided to the Senate Commerce Committee by a cable-TV lobbyist – which would have outlawed public broadband systems throughout the state.

Reach Dion Lefler at 316-268-6527 or dlefler@wichitaeagle.com.

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