WAVERLY — Businesses and residents of Waverly have demonstrated a need for speed — broadband speed. Waverly Utilities began offering high-speed internet, cable and digital telephone services in 2016. This means things like downloading photos and other files, streaming videos or participating in a video web-conferencing is fast — really fast.
“Internet service isn’t water or another utility essential for survival, but it’s getting up there in terms of being considered a necessity,” said Jeff Magsamen, telecommunication director for Waverly Utilities. “People utilize a lot of internet tools for working from home, school work and other things.”
It’s an important investment in the community’s economic development, and communities seeking to attract industry, entrepreneurs and young professionals must rise to this challenge, he added.
To that end, Waverly Utilities invested $13 million in more than 100 miles of fiber optic cable. The move made available high-speed internet, enhanced digital cable and digital telephone services, allowing residents and businesses speeds of 1,000 megabits per second (Mbps).
It also gave Waverly the distinction of “gigabit city” — one of a growing number of cities consciously concerned with connectivity. Gigabit services is delivered via fiber optic lines and indicates rapid download and upload speeds. With this type of connection, multiple users on a home or business network can stream high-definition content, upload files and/or check email without long wait periods or the pauses and false starts that characterize digital video “buffering.”
Internet connection speeds continue to improve nationwide and across the globe. According to Speedtest Global Index, the average download speed is roughly 22 Mbps, an increase of more than 20 percent over 2016 speeds.
Investments like that of Waverly Utilities raise the bar for local businesses that work with global partners and clients, said Magsamen.
“These services and features are a real differentiator for an economic development standpoint. It’s not the single, overriding reason a business picks Waverly, but it doesn’t hurt,” he said.
Slow internet speeds can be an indicator of other limiting factors, Magsamen explained. Meanwhile, an investment in advanced telecommunications demonstrates a community’s willingness to adapt to new things.
“More and more communities are looking to do what we’ve done,” said Magsamen. “We’re very progressive in Iowa, particularly in the larger municipalities. Waverly is one of the smaller cities that have added this level of functionality, and we talk to more and more communities who want to get to where we are.”
On the residential side, the upgrades have been a popular feature, too. Now more than 18 months after the service went live, more than half of Waverly Utilities’ 4,600 customers have opted for broadband service.
In the next 18 months, Waverly Utilities will focus on managing continued growth in broadband customers, said Magsamen.
Waverly Utilities also will continue to monitor security issues, he added. This includes protecting customers from service attacks.
“Our plan is pretty conservative,” said Magsamen. “Now that we’ve gone past 50 percent, the growth has slowed down. In the next three to five years, we’re looking at getting as close to 100 percent of residents in Waverly using our service.”