For the second in her Broadband series, Deb Rau from the Marshall Independent focused on broadband options available in the area. Cable (first in the form of Prairiewave, now Knology) has been a big players in towns such as Tracy.
I love the look back in her article…
“Before that [cable], there was dial-up. It was 56 kilobits per second, if you could get it,” said David Spencer, finance director for the city of Tracy, and a local resident. Getting a telecommunications hookup in town was “very big, not just for the Internet, but for telephones and cable television too.”
Remember when you had to convince an Internet service provider to bring dialup to your area? I was one of the people you called if you wanted MRNet to come to your town. I remember getting the calls and I remember visiting areas where the Internet was a long distance phone call. It wasn’t that long ago.
The article recognizes the expense of bringing infrastructure to rural areas where the population density is lower, which means fewer customers per mile, which in turn means you have to cover more miles. But that being said, local providers in the area have talked about customer base tripling in the last 5 years.
Cable isn’t the only option, wireless is mentioned too…
Some groups have opted to pursue alternatives to cable-based Internet in southwest Minnesota, however. About four years ago, the Southwest/West Central Service Cooperative invested in a system of microwave wireless towers to provide high-speed Internet to a total of 31 school districts in the region. Minnesota Valley Television also uses a wireless network to bring Internet service to rural areas.
The MVTV wireless network was another good option for Tracy.
MVTV received ARRA funding so their area is about to expand. They weren’t the only providers in Southwest Minnesota to receive funding. The Southwest Minnesota Broadband Group has received moved to deploy fiber – but maybe I’m getting ahead of the Marshall series on broadband.