The City of O'Neill held their special meeting on June 23 to discuss consideration and action for recommending a provider for the Rural Broadband Access Grant.
The council choose USA Communications of Kearney to recommend as the grant will be applied for by USA Communication and the city will write a letter of recommendation for the company to be the provider for the project.
USA Communications is a company headquartered in Kearney formed in 1984. The company began laying fiber optic in the mid 1990s for customers in multiple states. In 2014 they began serving the public directly with digital products as well as the full service on installing them.
"We will not raise our rates for five years and as far as our service, unlike some other providers, we will provide symmetrical service meaning that our upload speeds will match our download speeds. Other broad band providers usually only provide their upload speed as 10 percent of their download speed," said Mark Liljehorn who is the Director of Sales and Marketing.
Liljehorn said that with the project potentially involving installation of fiber in Atkinson we would at least have one technician based in either Atkinson or O'Neill and that USA communications would not have a typical store front here but would have a presence in one of the communities.
"We are greatly enthusiastic to build the infrastructure in O'Neill and Atkinson. Hopefully this grant will be decided by the second week of July and we can begin working as soon as possible on the project."
The CARES Act guidelines require that the Nebraska Broadband Grant program assist Nebraskans directly impacted by COVID-19. Enhanced broadband infrastructure is an important tool for Nebraskans to address the challenges of this public health crisis. Broadband providers must use this grant to provide service to an eligible community that meets the FCC broadband standard. These projects must be completed by Dec. 30, 2020.
The council voted to not go with Three Rivers who has already started to focus on rebuilding it's infrastructure in O'Neill. Three Rivers is currently spending around $200,000 a month on its O'Neill infrastructure and said they will continue with their project of upgrading their system.
Three Rivers is a local company out of Lynch and has had local cable service as well as internet service in O'Neill. Three Rivers is also a long time O'Neill Chamber of Commerce member and part of the community.