Sibley County Broadband Profile: hard work and a new cooperative change everything

In 2014, 90sibley percent of Sibley County had access to broadband. (Broadband was defined with lower speeds back then.) Today 59 percent of the county has access to broadband speeds of 25/3 (Mbps down/up) and 50 percent have access to the 2026 speed goals of 100/20.

Sibley County has been working on broadband for many years with Renville County. The counties and town tried working collectively with a Joint Powers agreement on getting broadband to their communities – fiber to the farm they said because they wanted to include areas outside the towns despite the high cost. They had trouble reaching consensus with all communities – specifically Sibley County left the project. That opened the door to a new solution – a cooperative. Since that time they have been working on that solution and it has been working. Here’s a brief outline of the coop from a Daily Yonder article

A unique partnership between RS Fiber and 10 cities is proving successful in Minnesota, which also has restrictions on public networks. The cities sold a General Obligation bond that they used to underwrite a loan to RS Fiber. The co-op leveraged the loan to raise more investment money.

RS Fiber retained Hiawatha Broadband Communications, a local ISP, to oversee all network buildout, operations and marketing. A fiber backbone will connect the 10 towns. During the three years it will take to complete the buildout, the co-op will provide 25-megabit symmetrical wireless and telephone services to the cities. In 2018 RS Fiber will ask the cities to pass another bond to finance the remaining buildout to take in surrounding farmlands. In total the entire network will cover over 600 miles and 2500 farm sites.

They have received positive attention for their work as a coop and most importantly a new tenant – a new Medical School is opening in Gaylord, which is Sibley County but because these counties have worked in tandem. I’m going to mention it here too!

In 2015, they got help State help with a Border to Border grant

R-S Fiber Cooperative, FTTH Project. Awarded $1 million to bring fiber-to-the –home (FTTH) service to 62 unserved and 536 underserved locations in Sibley and Renville counties. Total project costs are $3.32 million; the remaining $2.32 million (70 percent local match) will be provided by a line of credit that R-S Fiber Telcom has committed and partner equity. This project is part of a larger cooperative project estimated at $38.46 million that will upgrade broadband services to several thousand locations in the region. Hiawatha Broadband Communications will provide operational capacity.

Community and Economic Development Impact: In 2013, Sibley County was added to the Metropolitan Statistical Area of the Twin Cities. Twin Cities metro regional economic development strategy indicates that access to high-speed fiber networks is a critical component that companies consider when deciding whether to relocate to an area.

Sibley County is in line to receive $1,673,898 in CAF 2 funding to upgrade 2245 locations. CAF 2 recipients are only required to upgrade to 10/1 access. Many may choose to upgrade to better speeds but there are no requirements.


The Office of Broadband Development released data on broadband covered in fall of 2016, based on information gathered in July 2016. Here’s how they ranked:

  • Percentage served with 25/3 or better: 71.27
  • Percentage served with 100/20 or better: 51.01


Mississippi State University Extension have come up with a ranking system to gauge the digital divide index (DDI) by county. (The lower the number the better – the state average is 40.66.) Here’s how they ranked:

DDI score of 46.83 out of 100.

More info:

I plan to profile each county in Minnesota – tracking broadband access, digital divide and annotated links to news of what’s happening with broadband in the county. I’m keeping it high level because there are 87 counties!

This entry was posted in County Profiles 2017, MN by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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