Recovery Act Broadband Award Helps a Kansas Family Owned Rural Telephone Company and Provides Broadband to Rural Residents
Robert Koch, President and General Manager of H&B Communications in Holyrood, Kansas, displays the story of his family owned rural telephone company on the wall behind his desk. The mural, painted by an area artist, highlights the advancement in telecommunications since the company was founded in the 1950’s by Robert’s grandparents. The historical image also features two of the three generations of family ownership including his mother and grandmother who served as telephone operators in the early decades of the company.
H&B Communications was recently awarded USDA Recovery Act funding to build fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) through the Claflin and rural Ellinwood exchanges within H&B’s service territory. This build-out, according to Koch, ensures high-speed broadband access to underserved areas, but also helps preserve his family business that employs 17 in this small, rural town.
The company is investing $1.6 million to match a $1.9 million loan and a $4.7million grant from USDA. According to Koch, “Without the Recovery Act funding, no business plan we could create could make this investment work!” As this critical infrastructure is placed, H&B can ensure high speed broadband to all of its customers and remain competitive in the current telecommunications environment. With the high-speed access, his customers can enhance their quality of life and their business opportunities.
Koch is the third generation to own and operate H&B Communications and he has just welcomed his son and daughter back to Holyrood in a succession plan to ensure the family business continues. This fourth generation of ownership relocated to Holyrood from Kansas City and Wichita because they wanted a more secure, relaxed environment in which to raise their families. To add emphasis to the critical importance of the Broadband award, the fifth generation of the Koch family toddled in during the Summer Recovery Event plaque presentation. Koch’s two-year old granddaughter paid him an unexpected visit and following a hug from her he smiled and said, “This is what it is all about!”