WAVERLY — The city of Waverly officially has plugged in to become a “gigabit” city.
With high-speed internet, enhanced digital cable and digital telephone services, Waverly residents and businesses are able to take advantage of speeds up to 1,000 megabits per second, thanks to a recent $13 million project by Waverly Utilities.
“The average connections speed in the U.S. is 15Mb, which makes our services 65 times faster than the national average,” according to Mike Litterer, COO/director of operations.
The fiber infrastructure has the capacity for even more bandwidth if a business requires services greater than 1,000Mbps/1Gbps.
Crews finished installing more than 100 miles of fiber-optic cables last summer, and the telecommunications services were made available July 1 to the more than 10,000 homes and businesses in and around Waverly.
“The biggest underlying factor for building a communications utility was economic development. ... If you don’t have good internet access, you can’t run a business.” Litterer said. “Fiber services differentiates us from other communities when marketing Waverly, Iowa. Fiber and high-speed internet services may tip the scales in our favor when a business wants to relocate or expand in Waverly.”
The goal was to have 600 customers in the first six months. They now have more than 1,200 residential and commercial accounts on board.
“We almost doubled it. We really did really well,” Litterer said.
Users will be able to surf, download and upload data faster than the national average with prices lower than the standards of competitors, according to Jeff Magsamen, director of telecom services.
“We’re the only one in the state that provides symmetrical ... which means our upload and download speeds match,” Magsamen said.
The additional services prompted the utility to add nine new employees in the last year, for a total of 35 employees.
“We’re investing back in to our community. We care about Waverly as a whole,” said Jennifer Bloker, director of marketing and public information.
Established in 1904, the community-owned municipality provides electricity to more than 4,600 customers in and around Waverly.
Based out of 1002 Adams Parkway since 1967, Waverly Utilities changed its name two years ago from Waverly Light and Power to reflect its diversified portfolio of services.
In 1993, Waverly Utilities became the first public system in the Midwest to own and operate wind generation.
Since then, WU has been positioning itself to accommodate future growth in technology and power.
Last year, the utility began construction on a new substation — which cost around $2 million — located near Wartburg.
“Power isn’t necessarily created in the community you’re in,” Litterer said.
Electricity is shipped to Waverly via transmission lines at 69,000 volts. The electricity hits a substation, which drops it to a lower level down to around 12,500 volts, which is then sent out to places in the community, and then a smaller transformer will take the voltage down to what a typical house can use, which is only about 120 volts.
“Making sure those (substations) are up and running to the best of their abilities is really important,” Litterer said.
A third transmission line into the city is scheduled to be finished in June, which is when the final connection will be made to the transmission system.
“That was a really big step for us to get a third transmission line connected to our electrical system. We rely on two transmission lines right now to bring in all of our power every day. That third one really allows us to be more reliable and provides flexibility if we need to take lines down for maintenance a few times a year,” Litterer said.
Waverly Utilities is the recipient of several awards, including the highest rating of diamond status for the Reliable Public Power Award for the years 2015-18, the Governors’ Iowa Environmental Excellence Award in 2000 and 2001, and the Iowa Energy Leadership Award in 1997.
“There are very few utilities that get that status,” Magsamen said. “It’s a big thing to be recognized among the top tier of those in the U.S.”
Electric rates are not affected by the addition of communication services as mandated by Iowa Code 388.10, a state law preventing municipalities from using general fund moneys for the ongoing support or subsidy of a telecommunications system, according to Litterer.
A partnership was developed with Cedar Falls Utilities to share in the ownership of a new Internet Protocol TV head-end system — which includes satellites, receivers and switches to distribute a TV signal — to serve both CFU’s and Waverly Utilities’ customers.
“We have a good partnership with them,” Magsamen said. “They’re always there to answer questions, they’ve helped us out a lot. Drawing on CFU’s decades of experience has benefited us greatly.”
William Werger, Waverly’s economic development director, noted Waverly Utilities have been a leader in telecommunications. “Their reliability is amazing. They keep the infrastructure in good shape, very responsive for their record of down time. They’re really terrific,” he said.