Let’s meet some freedom fighters. You won’t find them in a jungle fighting a dictator. These fighters struggle to break free from poor internet service and are based in rural Kansas.
Daniel Friesen is Founder and Director of Innovation at IdeaTek in Buhler. He describes his company staff as freedom fighters for good internet service, especially in rural communities.
Daniel went to high school in Buhler. He was a tech-savvy kid. “When our teachers at school received computers, they would ask me to set them up,” Daniel said.
In 1999, he and four high school friends started a computer repair business in Buhler with $ 250 in the basement of his parents’ house. The company was called IdeaTek.
Daniel pursued the business in college while his four friends pursued other interests. He studied Computer Systems Support at Hutchinson Community College and Management Information Systems at Wichita State before continuing his full-time activity in Buhler, where he, his wife and family now live. .
Daniel served three terms as mayor of Buhler and is currently Reno County Commissioner. He was a member of the Kansas Broadband Expansion Task Force and the Federal Communications Commission Competitive Infrastructure Task Force. Locally, he is a member of the community foundation boards and administrator of the Buhler MB Church.
In 2005, Daniel made IdeaTek’s transition from computers to telecommunications. IdeaTek pioneered fiber-to-the-home Internet service in Buhler in 2007, then served nearby rural communities such as Bentley, population 530, and Yoder, population 194. Now it is rural.
The business has continued to grow and change. Daniel has gone from CEO to Director of Innovation.
“Today we have a strong focus on high quality optical fibers,” said Daniel. “We are an Internet service provider focused on underserved areas of the state of Kansas. ”
“Everyone deserves high quality, robust broadband service. Geography should not be a limiting factor.
The pandemic has demonstrated the importance of broadband service for quality education, healthcare and more.
“We’re big supporters of competition,” Daniel said. “If you let the free market work, that will solve the problems. Competition always benefits the consumer.
Today, IdeaTek has more than 120 employees. IdeaTek’s service area now stretches from Strong City to Liberal.
In 2020, federal funding from the CARES Act was allocated for broadband telecommunications in underserved rural areas. IdeaTek has supported several projects.
“It was a monumental elevator,” said Daniel. In three months, IdeaTek reached out to serve 17 counties. Nearly 20 communities received fiber for the first time. The company deployed 20 cable plows and 39 drilling rigs to build 70 towers and 358 miles of road.
In the end, the project involved 115,000 hours and 25,805 miles of fiber with the potential to serve 10,335 homes and businesses. The total investment was $ 18 million. “It was the most rewarding and challenging project we have ever done,” said Daniel.
The goal remains to reach underserved areas of Kansas. According to IdeaTek, Kansas ranks 28th nationally for broadband connectivity – 173,000 Kansans do not have wired broadband services available in their homes, and 26% of rural Americans do not have broadband access, compared to just 1% of urban customers.
“We call ourselves internet freedom fighters,” Daniel said. “We want to free people from bad internet service.” The company’s website even describes the characteristics of a freedom fighter: passionate, tenacious, inventive, hyper-adaptable, and trustworthy.
IdeaTek has been named one of Inc’s fastest growing private companies. 5000. The company’s website states, “We are small town techies and Kansans at heart, passionate about helping rural communities thrive. If we can help make this happen by connecting community members and organizations to our fast and reliable internet, that’s what we are here for. ”
For more information, visit www.IdeaTek.com.
It’s time to say goodbye to these freedom fighters. They are not leading a guerrilla war in a jungle somewhere; they are fighting for better broadband service in rural Kansas.
We salute Daniel Friesen and all IdeaTek employees in Buhler for making a difference in advocacy and investing in rural broadband. I hope they will continue the good fight.
– Ron Wilson is director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University. The mission of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development is to improve rural development by helping rural people help themselves. The Kansas Profile Radio Series and Columns are produced with assistance from the K-State Research and Extension Department of Communications News Media Services.