In late 2020, SmartSource Consulting was engaged* to conduct a comprehensive Community Broadband Survey for the Ottumwa area. The survey measured consumer attitudes regarding existing broadband providers in the community and served as a gauge for the community’s interest in a fiber optic-based internet option. Simultaneously, SmartSource facilitated community stakeholder meetings to engage with community leaders in business, health care, economic development, education, non-profit and public sectors to gather feedback on what impact internet availability has on their operations.

Members of the Ottumwa Broadband Committee and MCG.

Results of the data collected by SmartSource showed that survey respondents and community stakeholders want and require better broadband service. As a result, representatives from the City of Ottumwa, Greater Ottumwa Partners in Progress, Indian Hills Community College, the Legacy Foundation, Ottumwa Community School District, and Ottumwa Regional Health Center came together to form the Ottumwa Broadband Committee. The Committee and SmartSource Consulting submitted a Request for Information (RFI) to regional broadband providers to identify capable entities interested in providing a cost-competitive, reliable, high-capacity, gigabit-speed fiber to the premises (FTTP) network within the Ottumwa city limits.

The RFI process yielded responses from two reputable providers in the southeast Iowa area. The Committee invited both respondents to present their Ottumwa broadband plans and host the Ottumwa Broadband Committee for on-site visits. With guidance from SmartSource Consulting, the Committee identified Mahaska Communications Group (MCG) as the ideal provider for the Ottumwa community.

“The team at MCG is excited to bring our world-class service to the Ottumwa community. We would like to thank the members of the Ottumwa Broadband Committee and SmartSource Consulting for their time and efforts to bring Fiber Broadband to Ottumwa,” said Natalie Hopf, MCG Sales and Marketing Manager. “MCG was born out of a need in 2000 when our parent company MUSCO Sports Lighting had to overcome the local service provider’s limitations. MCG’s mission is to continue this tradition of providing reliable communication services and superior customer support that strengthens the economic vitality, social development, and overall quality of life in the communities we serve.”

MCG Assistant General Manager Steve Burnet answer questions about the project with KTVO.

MCG will provide broadband internet service speeds of up to 2 gigabits per second with no data capacity limits to every premise in the Ottumwa city limits. They will also offer television and local and long-distance telephone services. Where financially feasible, built-up areas surrounding Ottumwa will be served with fiber, as well. In addition, MCG will expand its fixed wireless internet network to provide rural, unserved regions in Wapello County with service.

Kelly Genners, President/CEO of the Legacy Foundation, served on the Ottumwa Broadband Committee. She said, “The Ottumwa Broadband Committee is pleased to have MCG building a fiber-to-the-home network in Ottumwa. As we saw in the Community Survey, we needed a reliable, high-speed internet option. We believe that providing adequate broadband access is critical for enhancing our local economy and the quality of life for Ottumwans. Access to high-speed broadband will allow residents to work, learn and enjoy online services in a way that is needed for southeast Iowa to be a desirable location to call home.”

Construction will begin in early 2023, with a three-year build-out timeline. MCG will follow a phased approach, allowing businesses and residents to receive services as they become available in their areas. MCG will operate a local office to house customer support and service technicians in Ottumwa. MCG’s expansion will bring a projected 17 new full-time jobs to the community.  Assistant General Manager Steve Burnett said, “We are very excited to make available to the entire Ottumwa community the communication services you deserve! We believe our actions will show we are not your ordinary communication provider.”

To learn more about MCG, visit https://www.mahaska.org/.

Selection as a preferred provider by the Committee is merely an invitation to enter Ottumwa. This invitation does not provide exclusive rights or contracts to MCG.

*The Legacy Foundation funded SmartSource consultant fee for this project.