SCOTT CITY–Wheatland Electric Cooperative, Inc., a member-owned distribution cooperative headquartered in Scott City, Kansas, announced an agreement with S&T Telephone Cooperative Association to acquire Wheatland Broadband, a Wheatland Electric subsidiary that provides rural broadband in western Kansas. As a result, effective January 1, 2022, all 3,500 Wheatland Broadband customers will receive their telecommunication services from S&T Communications, an S&T Telephone Cooperative Association subsidiary.
The acquisition supports Wheatland Broadband’s and S&T’s shared mission to deliver reliable, high-speed internet service to its customers in western Kansas. In 2002, Wheatland built a fixed-based, wireless network that served as the backbone of our communications system and at the same time, offered internet service to rural western Kansas.
In 2019, conversations began between Wheatland and S&T. Our goal has been to ensure western Kansas has a reliable high-speed internet network to grow our communities, businesses, and educational opportunities. S&T, founded in 1952, remains one of the last locally owned broadband providers. Their internal team of technology experts has been the key to their successful fiber-optic and next-gen cable networks, currently serving over 6,000 customers.
“From the inception of Wheatland Broadband, our mission was to provide reliable internet service to residents of western Kanas. We accomplished that with a fixed base wireless network,” said Bruce W. Mueller, Wheatland’s CEO/General Manager. “The future is a full fiber buildout to our broadband members where applicable and upgrading fixed wireless radio transmitters. All these upgrades will take a substantial capital investment. The Wheatland Electric Board of Trustees feels it is time to hand the reins over to a company that specializes in 100% broadband and communications services. They are also a subsidiary of another cooperative: S&T Telephone Cooperative Association. We know that S&T has the expertise and resources to expand the fiber-optic network in western Kansas.”
The S&T Cooperative was born from the needs of the local community, and it continues to serve that mission today, according to Zack Odell, S&T CEO.
“Over the last 20 years, we have witnessed the rapid development of new broadband technologies, coinciding with the dramatic increase in broadband speed requirements for everyday life. Once considered a luxury, high-speed broadband has become as necessary as electricity and indoor plumbing. We strive to develop a team of experts who can continue to bring next-generation technologies to our rural communities."
Currently, S&T fiber customers have access to gigabyte speeds, rivaling those found in large urban population centers like Denver and Kansas City. In addition, their Smart Home Wi-Fi technology provides a better in-home experience with improved wi-fi coverage, security, and parental controls. Many Wheatland Broadband customers can expect to see improvements in speed in early 2022.
"Upgrades to existing fixed-wireless radios transmitters will be a noticeable improvement for many rural customers. We had wished to begin these upgrades immediately; unfortunately, the availability of supplies is delaying progress. Like many local businesses, we are subject to the modern supply chain," Odell explained.
All current customers will receive all relevant information in the mail regarding the transition, and no interruption in services or account billing is expected. Follow Wheatland Electric and Wheatland Broadband on social media for updates.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to entrust our broadband customers to another local cooperative,” Mueller said. “We believe S&T Communications will continue our mission to care for communications needs and expectations of our rural communities and are excited for the future of western Kansas.”
Wheatland Broadband, a Wheatland Electric subsidiary, headquartered in Scott City, KS, was established in 2002 to deliver reliable, high-speed internet service to its members in rural Western Kansas that had been seemingly left behind by larger telecommunications companies. Wheatland Broadband serves approximately 3,500 members in 17 southwest Kansas counties.