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Governor pays visit to lumberyard-run internet provider

December 30, 2018

PROMISE CITY, Iowa (AP) — Local builders and avid do-it-yourselfers have long turned to Lockridge, Inc. for construction materials. Many residents are beginning to turn to them for high-speed Internet.

Challenges with getting high-speed Internet in rural areas and even small towns have proved a struggle, the Daily Iowegian reported . Even in places in which federal data states an area has access to high-speed internet, that data doesn’t always prove true.

Lockridge, Inc., a family-owned building materials company with locations in Wayne, Appanoose, Lucas and Putnam counties, set out about two years ago to come up with a solution to their own internal problem. That solution may end up solving a societal problem faced by many in rural southeastern Iowa.

The Lockridge company is headquartered where the business began in the 1940s in Promise City, population 113. This location houses their company network, including point-of-sale and their estimate generation systems.

Getting their other locations in Centerville, Chariton and Unionville, Missouri able to connect to that network, however, was sometimes a challenge due to the lack of broadband access in the area.

Around the same time, they were aiding in the construction of a home for Pete Krebs, who has an Internet networking background. Together, they came up with a solution: Create Lockridge’s own wireless Internet network.

This involved setting up various towers in the area, which drew questions from curious residents in the sparsely populated rural areas.

Caleb Housh, a sales manager of the family-run business, said at first some employees of Lockridge themselves got connected with the system. The family began seeing they could begin offering the service to the communities they serve.

The unique scenario drew the attention of Gov. Kim Reynolds and her Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg as they stopped at the company’s Promise City location during a southern Iowa swing.

Housh said the service is still in a pre-launch stage. Krebs said over two years the new Internet service company has grown confident in their network and service options.

Krebs, who co-owns the new Lockridge Networks company, told Reynolds that just a few feet in elevation change can make a major difference in the kind of power or radios that need to be used to establish service.

The trees and rolling hills of southern Iowa create problems and are among the reasons the service still has some gaps in its pre-launch phase. The company plans to continue expanding, and filling in those service gaps over time.

One day, Housh told Reynolds, the dream is that service would be available south of the Highway 34 corridor between Interstate 35 and the Mississippi River. For now, the service is expected to remain in somewhat of a soft-launching phase until the first part of 2019.

Those interested in obtaining services can contact Lockridge Network, which is a separate company operated by many of the same people as the lumber company. The best way, Housh said, is through Facebook via the Lockridge Networks page.

Potential customers will be put onto a waiting list, though if they happen to be at an address serviceable by current equipment the company can begin connecting them immediately.

Krebs showed Reynolds data that a random home in Seymour is achieving 60 Mbps download speeds, well above the federal standard for broadband. It’s much quicker than what the only other fixed broadband service can deliver to the town of 706 people.

“We’ve promised them 25 Mbps, we’re actually giving them 60,” Krebs said. “We want to be able to consistently provide better quality service. ... They had upgraded previously from a three-megabit service.”

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Information from: Daily Iowan (Campus Paper), http://www.dailyiowan.com

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