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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Installation of fiber-optic cables boosts internet speeds in Grinnell

Graphic by Qingshuo Du.

The Mahaska Communication Group (MCG) began its expansion of fiber-optic internet in Grinnell in March 2021. The broadband project will allow for significantly faster internet speeds for the city of Grinnell and is on track to be finished by the end of 2022. This winter, the construction was paused, but as the weather warms up MCG will continue its work.

Fiber-optic internet has already been mostly installed in the northwest part of Grinnell. “We built the northwest corner first. And then we finished up with what we could, before the weather turned bad this winter downtown,” said Steven Burnett, general manager at MCG. “We hope to start up, maybe even next week. It says the frost comes out of the ground, we’ll get back and going.”

According to Russ Behrens, Grinnell city manager, most homes and small businesses in Grinnell did not have access to fiber-optic internet before MCG started this project.

This is in part because the internet was primarily provided through coaxial cables, which have less capability than fiber-optic internet. The lack of reliable internet became a greater concern recently due to the pandemic because coaxial cables do not allow for consistent web-streaming and online video calls.

“It [the pandemic] even exposed more of the need for having good internet at home, whether you have to study from home, or you have to work from home, you need the decent service to be able to do those things. And it’s certainly an inconvenience when you don’t have that,” said Burnett. 

Often, video calls were not working with the prior internet connection, which was difficult for both students and people working from home. “They have to shut the video off because they don’t have enough bandwidth to handle both the both the video and the call,” said Burnett. “Those are the things that you don’t have a problem with when you have fiber.”

Behrens said he hopes that this project with MCG will allow everyone in Grinnell to have access to better internet for a low cost. 

“I think ultimately, the impact on it is that . . . every home regardless of, you know, socioeconomic standing will have access to high-speed broadband,” said Behrens. 

So far there have been few issues with this project, and it is on track for the anticipated completion date. “It’s gone pretty smoothly. But anytime you installed this much, you know, fiber in a community … people are going to be upset their yard got tore up or, you know, we we maybe we bore through a storm sewer pipe,” he said. 

Burnett said the partnership between MCG and the city of Grinnell has gone well, and MCG has been happy to work in Grinnell. “The city’s been outstanding to work with. The folks in the community really accepted us very well. It’s been very nice. I don’t know if it was a surprise, but it’s just been nice to be welcomed as much as we have been.”

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