Two Harbors business comes for fiber also gets tech support

I met (by phone) Patrick Krekelberg when we were looking at the ROI of public investment in broadband. As I recall, he wanted to move to an area that was as remote as possible, yet still online. He landed in Two Harbors. He had just moved to the area when we spoke to him. He ran a business and home-schooled a few kids thanks to fiber.

The MHTA provides an update

At a wooded homestead 10 miles north of Two Harbors, a morning jam session is underway. The man on guitar is Patrick Krekelberg, the CEO of two product and app development companies, Audiofile and Krekeltronics, which he runs out of the second floor loft above his garage. If it wasn’t for the fiber network put in by the county, Krekelberg wouldn’t have the high-speed internet access he needs to run his wilderness-based startups, let alone bring on interns to help him.

One of those interns is Rachael Platt, a senior studying computer information systems and music at the College of St. Scholastica. Platt’s putting both her major and minor to use by assisting Krekelberg with quality assurance (QA) testing, website reformation and mobile development for a music app.

Turns out the intern makes good use of broadband as well…

Platt has spent most of her internship working remotely, which has allowed her to hone her project and time management skills as well as what’s she learning in software development. Managing both is a balancing act that requires communication and independence.

It was nice to hear that Krekelberg had received some small business support as well…

While Platt is receiving hands-on industry experience in the outdoor setting that she loves, Krekelberg is getting the product development assistance that he needs as well. All this is made easier with additional entrepreneurial support through SciTechsperience, a state-funded internship program that helps startups and small businesses find and hire interns by reimbursing the employer for half their wages, up to $2,500 per student.

“The wage reimbursement is essential to the level of quality internships that we’re able to provide,” Krekelberg said, “It’s allowed us to equip Rachael with the mission critical equipment that she needs.”


RS Fiber and HBC form Long-Term Agreement and plan expansions

Great news for folks in the area. It’s always good to hear about folks who are willing to expand fiber to rural Minnesota…

RS Fiber Cooperative (RS Fiber) has announced the formation of a long-term operating relationship with Hiawatha Broadband Communications (HBC), giving RS Fiber the opportunity to meet and expand on the original goals for the project.


RS Fiber hired HBC to build and operate the gigabit fiber-to-the-premise (FTTP) network when the project was launched three-years ago to bring high-speed broadband to Renville and Sibley Counties. RS Fiber and HBC recently struck a partnership agreement where HBC will provide funding for the continued operation and growth of the network.


To build the network, RS Fiber acquired financing through several sources. Many financial institutions deem the construction of broadband networks as high risk, resulting in higher interest rates. After the network is built and customer numbers grow, the lender risk is reduced allowing for more favorable interest rates. This past year, RS Fiber has been working to restructure its high interest loans in an effort to create a longstanding and sustainable Cooperative. The culmination of that work has resulted in an arrangement between RS Fiber and HBC that strengthens their business relationship for years to come and keeps the RS Fiber mission and vision intact.


“We knew we had the right vision and great support from the cities and townships in our project area,” said Kevin Lauwagie, Chairman of the RS Fiber Board of Directors. “We have held strong to the commitment we made to our patrons and residents of our region. This relationship with HBC will help us continue to provide advanced services that rural Minnesota deserves.”


“This network and RS Fiber’s commitment to rural broadband is right in line with HBC’s vision and values” stated HBC President, Dan Pecarina. “We are committed to small town and rural broadband deployment, so operating this

network with our RS Fiber friends provides the opportunity to advance this much needed service.”


RS Fiber has completed construction of gigabit FTTP networks in 10 communities located in Renville, Sibley, McLeod, and Nicollet Counties of west central Minnesota. RS Fiber has also used this rich fiber network to connect to tall structures such as towers and grain elevators to provide high speed fixed-wireless services to the rural areas of the region.


RS Fiber currently serves more than 2,200 customers, with plans to rapidly expand its customer base. “Fiber-Optic networks provide more speed, capacity, and reliability and those features will help drive more innovative services to RS Fiber customers,” stated Pecarina.


“We are already seeing tremendous economic growth within the RS Fiber communities, like the medical school coming to Gaylord” added Lauwagie, “along with education, telemedicine, and precision agriculture benefits.”


RS Fiber will soon be announcing several new service options for customers to enhance their video, telephone, and broadband Internet experience. RS Fiber is also looking to expand its network to bring the benefits of the high-speed broadband to more rural residents and businesses in the region.

How is broadband like a dishwasher?

Broadband and dishwasher are neck in neck in renters short list of needs.

Broadband Now recently did a survey of apartment renters and what they thought of broadband. Turns out 39 percent report that broadband is essential. Here are some of the other things they found:

  • Renters were fiber were happiest with their broadband
  • Most renters had wireless
  • Renters wanted dishwashers and laundry more than broadband, but it was close
  • People will pay more for fiber.For customers without a fiber connection today, 17 percent said $50 or more per month to rent a place with fiber. For customers with a fiber connection today, 35 percent said $50 or more per month.

Greenwood Town Board officials question value of broadband

I have been working in broadband for 20 years. I remember introducing people to the internet. I was the first person to show them the WWW. I was like a magic librarian. And back then I spoke to CEOs, City Officials and others about the value of Internet. But it has been years since I’ve heard of community meeting that shifted from “how can we get broadband” to “why.” But apparently that was the shift at the Greenwood Town Board meeting on May 14, as the Timber Jay reports

Several Greenwood Town Board officials, at their meeting on May 14, questioned the township’s participation in the ongoing regional broadband project. The Blandin Foundation has awarded a $75,000 grant to several local communities consisting of representatives from Tower, Breitung, Eagles Nest, Vermilion Lake, and Greenwood to use for smaller community projects to increase broadband availability.

The group has allocated $5,000 of the grant to allow Greenwood to purchase a public computer for use at the town hall. The township is required to provide a match for the grant, but the township’s contribution could be in-kind services, such as providing rent-free use of the town hall space, use of the township’s printer (at a per copy charge) and oversight by township staff. The plan calls for the computer to be available only during the clerk’s regular office hours, 20 hours a week. The grant would also cover additional costs for higher speed internet service.

But town board members, who had approved the project at last month’s meeting, had more questions, and some seemed unwilling to participate at all.

It seems like part of the issue is the cost of technology…

Treasurer Pam Rodgers appeared to support the project, but she questioned the computer and software set-up from Mark Wilcox Computer Services that had been included in the proposal, at a cost of $3,278. She said she had talked with Wilcox and felt a lower cost computer would be more than adequate. She estimated that annual maintenance costs for the computer would be $300 a year.

Chairman Carmen DeLuca wondered why the public couldn’t use the old fire department office computer. Board members told him that computer was outdated, and probably wouldn’t be suitable.

I understand the desire to get the best deal but computers for home and business (or industrial-strength shared) use are different. It’s difficult to understand that if you don’t work in IT; I think the correlation might be home versus an industrial oven.

The bigger issue might be assumption that satellite will make fiber obsolete, or not worth the investment…

DeLuca also questioned the project’s commitment to installing broadband service. He said that in five years that technology would be outdated and satellite technology would be in use.

DeLuca isn’t alone in wanting satellite to be a solution but experts have repeatedly said that high orbit satellite will not work for rural areas…

Everyone is looking for a cheaper, easier, better way to bring broadband to rural Minnesota. 5G isn’t it. Industry experts have confirmed that 5G isn’t a solution for rural areas and a speaker at a recent US House Energy and Commerce Committee confirmed it.

And recently Doug Dawson explained how/why low orbit satellite isn’t likely to be a viable solution either…

At this early stage, it’s nearly impossible to know what impact these companies might have. We don’t know anything about their download and speed capacity, their pricing strategy, or their targeted market so it’s impossible to begin to predict their impact. We don’t even know how long it’s going to take to get these satellites in space since these three companies alone have plans to launch over 10,000 new satellites – a tall task when compared to the 1,100 satellites currently active in space. …

I foresee a different future for the satellite industry. Let’s start with a few facts we know. While 10,000 satellites is an impressive number, that’s a worldwide number and there will be fewer than 1,000 satellites over the US. Most of the satellites are tiny – these are not the same as the huge satellites launched by HughesNet. Starlink has described their satellites as varying in size between a football and a small dorm refrigerator. At those small sizes these satellites are probably the electronic equivalent of the OLT cabinets used as neighborhood nodes in a FTTH network – each satellite will likely support some limited and defined number of customers. OneWeb recently told the FCC in a spectrum docket that they are envisioning needing one million radio links, meaning their US satellites would be able to serve one million households. Let’s say that all of the satellite providers together will serve 3 – 5 million homes in the US – that’s an impressive number, but it’s not going to drive other ISPs into a pricing panic.
I also guess that the satellite providers will not offer cheap prices – they don’t need to. In fact, I expect them to charge more than urban ISPs. The satellite providers will have one huge market advantage – the ability to bring broadband where there isn’t landline competition. The satellite providers can likely use all of their capacity selling only in rural America at a premium price.

Choosing fiber today isn’t like choosing an 8-track player in the 1970s. Fiber will never become defunct. For broadband transport outside of satellite, a key aspect of the equation is how close you can bring the last mile to a fiber connection.

CTC starts building better broadband to parts of Todd County

Brainerd Dispatch reports…

CTC recently hosted a groundbreaking event at 11 a.m. Monday, May 20, in Browerville. CTC was the only telecommunications company in Minnesota in 2018 to be awarded the Community Connect grant bringing broadband services to rural Minnesota.

CTC also rebranded to its initials instead of using the Consolidated Telecommunications or Telephone Co. name.

CTC reports this project will bring much-needed broadband services to the communities of Fawn Lake, Philbrook, and Moran townships, as well as some surrounding areas. Construction for this fiber-to-the-home project is expected to begin soon and continue through fall 2019.

The project is being funded by a $2.1 million grant through U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Connect program.

CTC to extend fiber to reach man in Crow Wing County

Last month I wrote about Steve Riley in Crow Wing County, who was frustrated with his broadband service. His wife teleworks, they couldn’t get anything faster than 5-9 Mbps and their provider wasn’t interested in upgrading them.

Turns out CTC was. Joe Buttweiler from CTC saw Steve’s story, which included a map of the area. CTC was already working with some small businesses in the area and Steve’s home wasn’t too far off the planned construction. SO they got together and it sounds like the Riley’s will have better service soon.

CenturyLink deploys FTTH to Fish Lake Township

The Post Review reports…

More than 900 residents and businesses in Fish Lake Township now have access to fiber gigabit internet speeds up to 1,000 Mbps due to investments from CenturyLink, Inc. (NYSE: CTL) and Fish Lake Township, as well as a $1.8 million grant from Minnesota’s Border to Border Broadband Development Grant Program.

CenturyLink is delivering Fiber to the Home (FTTH) technology in Fish Lake Township as part of its participation in the Federal Communications Commission’s Connect America Fund (CAF) program and its commitment to meet the broadband needs of residents and local businesses in Minnesota.

“From telemedicine to students doing homework, broadband access is essential to our everyday life,” said Sen. Mark W. Koran, R-North Branch. “I’m proud to have supported and continue to support the Border to Border grant program that enabled this partnership with CenturyLink and Fish Lake Township. This fiber to the home broadband expansion brings 21st century access to the businesses and households in our area.”

“CenturyLink knows that life is powered by connections and that communities benefit from fiber internet speeds,” said Dan O’Connell, CenturyLink senior director, Northeast region. “The state broadband grant program, coupled with CenturyLink’s local investment, is a great example of the public and private sectors working together to provide connectivity that helps meet our customers’ personal and business needs.”

For more information or to order gigabit service, residents can contact Darren Larson, CenturyLink retail sales, at (612) 412-5113 or at

For existing CenturyLink customers, our policy is to cover the cost of the first 700’ and the customer would pay excess construction charges for the difference between the first 700’ and the actual length of the drop – this is being waived through March 31.

For new customers, we charge excess construction for the entire drop regardless of length and is not subject to being waived.