The Institute for Local Self Reliance has released a case study on RS Fiber – a cooperative that is successfully bringing fiber to 6000 farms, homes and businesses in southeast Minnesota. For those of us who know the story t’s nice to have a concise review of it – for anyone who is in a community that has had difficulty working with providers to bring better broadband to their community – in and beyond the townships – the report is very instructive. It’s a strong case for cooperatives.
Borrowed from the reports here are the bare facts:
RS Fiber Cooperative, named after Renville and Sibley Counties, is building an estimated $45 million telecommunications network to serve more than 6,000 households, farms, and other businesses in a 700+ square-mile area with both wireless and universal fiber-optic service. …
To attract funding, the cities created an unusual financing mechanism. Ten cities bonded for more than half the $15 million phase 1 cost. The bond proceeds were loaned to the cooperative and that loan was made subordinate to additional loans. Thus local governments would be repaid last if the network failed to meet financial targets. This structure was instrumental in attracting additional financing from local banks.
The cooperative partnered with Hiawatha Broadband Communications (HBC), a growing Internet Service Provider in southeast Minnesota, to operate the network. Without HBC’s guidance and support, RS Fiber might not have succeeded.
HBC provides telephone, television, and Internet access services across the RS Fiber network. Internet capacity ranges from 50 Mbps to 1,000 Mbps on the fiber network. Prices range from $50 to $130 per month for those connections. Unlike DSL and cable, these connections are just as fast on the upload side as download. Anyone who takes service from the network becomes a member-owner of the co-op.
The report does a nice job higlightling the work of the tenacious community leaders (Mark Erickson) and telling their story in an instructive and inspirational way.