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Towers supply high-speed Internet access to underserved


Prairie iNet, a West Des Moines-based Internet access provider, is now supplying high-speed wireless Internet access to businesses in Johnston and Urbandale that previously lacked wireless or phone-based broadband service.

Company officials say the construction of two transmission towers in February, one atop the Hyperion Field Club in Johnston and another at 100th Street and Douglas Avenue in Urbandale, allows Prairie iNet to deliver service to most of those two communities, plus some spillover service into West Des Moines, Waukee, Grimes and Clive.

Craig Hiemstra, president, and Randy Ramundt, executive vice president, co-founded Prairie iNet in 2000. They say the new service is consistent with the company’s business plan to focus on delivering high-speed access to underserved areas.

“There has really been pent-up demand for high-speed Internet in these areas,” he said. “We target the have-nots, those who have no access to broadband with Mediacom or DSL.”

Hiemstra said wireless access is more network-friendly for businesses that must tie multiple computers or locations together. But the primary benefit is speed. Service starts at 512 Kbps and goes up to 3 Mbps. These high speeds mean e-mails, Web page loading, and file uploads and downloads move very quickly, Hiemstra said.

“We’re the most customer-friendly in terms of adding new subscribers because we don’t string wires or cable,” he said. “Wireless is extremely reliable, and it’s at least 20 times faster than phone-based dial-up connections.”

Additionally, Prairie iNet’s wireless network has plenty of capacity to add new business customers. The company’s “sweet spot” of clients, Hiemstra said, is small offices that house attorneys, doctors, insurance agents, graphic designers and accountants. He said his company also provides redundancy services to large companies.

“Companies with five to 100 employees are our mainstays,” Hiemstra said. “But with big companies that already have a primary provider, we can serve as an economical backup solution.”

Hiemstra said Prairie iNet invested approximately $250,000 to build the two towers, giving the company “line-of-sight technology.”

“Our world is becoming more and more wireless,” he said. “It’s a great value in that there are cost savings and that it’s flexible and easy to deploy.”

Hiemstra said the towers also allow the company to grow responsibly.

“Considering the state of the industry last year, we feel fortunate that we’re still here,” he said. “We’ve been growing for three years as a privately funded business, and we’re debt-free.”

Though the company’s customer base has grown organically on the strength of its success in small towns, Prairie iNet now serves more than 120 communities in Iowa and Illinois, including 2,800 Iowa customers. Hiemstra said he and Ramundt saw this as an opportunity to capture a part of the larger suburban market. It already provides service in Ankeny, Adel, Perry and Saydel.

“We’re ready to help with high-speed access,” he said. “People have asked us constantly when we would enter the metro marketplace, and we’re here now. Users who couldn’t get the most out of their Internet for business now have a reliable, viable option they didn’t have before.”

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