After 28 Years Jimmy Todd Still Dedicated to Expanding Rural Fiber

Randy Sukow


In 1996, the same year that the Telecommunications Act dramatically changed the direction of wireless and wireline telecommunications, a rural telephone cooperative launched fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) service in the towns of Hill City and Bogue, KS. According to the Fiber Broadband Association (FBA), “Nex-Tech was the first company in the nation to bring FTTH technology to a community and an entire telecom exchange.” Nex-Tech has been adding fiber projects ever since and now covers thousands of square miles of northwest and central Kansas.

NRTC Board Chairman Jimmy Todd, CEO and General Manager of Nex‐Tech based in Lenora, KS, says fiber expansion remains just as important now as it was 28 years ago. “You know, we knew that fiber was the future, just as it is today,” he said during a recent FBA webcast. “We’ve got to look forward because too often folks that are in decision-making positions are more focused on right now as opposed to where do we need to be in a few years.”

Todd is the currently chairman of FBA’s Board of Directors as well as NRTC’s.

After Hill City, Nex-Tech sought out fiber opportunities and funding options, using grants and loans through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and funding from the FCC’s Universal Service Fund.

“We built a core network that connected all of the exchanges that became part of Nex-Tech, which really connected a pretty good section of the state, but all rural,” Todd said. “Then we interfaced with the Kansas Fiber Network. We interface with peers. We intersect with other providers, so we have connectivity beyond our footprint.”

Fiber connectivity can make a big difference in rural areas. Todd, who recently completed a four-year stint with the FCC’s Precision Ag Connectivity Task Force, told the story of a small dairy in a Nex-Tech exchange that had an opportunity to be a supplier for Dannon Yogurt. Dannon required fiber connections to the farm to monitor milk quality.

“We worked with them and extended nine miles of fiber to get them connected. They weren’t in the cooperative, but it was the right thing to do for the right reason,” he said. “And that business has significantly grown in the past decade … They’ve more than doubled the size of their operation, and they would never have been able to do that without fiber.”

Early this year, Nex-Tech announced that its fiber connections were reaching all of its cooperative members, even the most remote. But achieving that milestone does not end Nex-Tech’s drive to build fiber networks. A few months earlier, the Kansas Lasting Infrastructure and Network Connectivity (LINC) program awarded the co-op $1.4 million to build to the unserved communities of Herndon and Clayton, KS.

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