Broadband Coming to Pennington and Strawberry Areas of Leech Lake Indian Reservation & SE Beltrami County

Good news from Paul Bunyan…

Paul Bunyan Communications is expanding its all-fiber optic network to parts of Southeast Beltrami County in the Pennington area this year and recently was awarded a Border to Border Broadband Grant from the state of Minnesota to expand its fiber optic services to the Strawberry area in 2021. To see if a location is included in either expansion project go to https://paulbunyan.net/gigazone/availability-map/
As a result of the recently announced grant, the cooperative will begin expansion construction to the Strawberry area in the spring of 2021. This all fiber optic project will make advanced fiber-optic services available to over 200 locations. The project is estimated to cost $581,600, with the State of Minnesota Border to Border grant contributing $261,720 and Paul Bunyan Communications investing $319,880.
“This is a big deal for those who live in the Pennington and Strawberry area. Access to quality broadband service is vital to so many different facets of life including health care, education, business, and recreation. I applaud Paul Bunyan Communications and all those involved to secure the necessary funding and continue to expand to provide this essential service to more of our tribal members. We will continue to work with Paul Bunyan to secure additional grant funding to bring broadband to other parts of the reservation that remain without access” said Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Tribal Chairman Faron Jackson, Sr.
“We are excited to continue our expansion efforts to provide access to broadband Internet speeds to those without it in our region. Our cooperative has a long history of expanding to underserved areas but it has become increasingly challenging to go it alone without grant support. The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe was instrumental in supporting our grant application to make this project a reality. These areas will not only get Broadband access, they will go from slow satellite or dial up Internet to speeds of up to a Gigabit per second and become part of one of the largest rural Gigabit networks in the country!,” said Gary Johnson, Paul Bunyan Communications CEO/General Manager.
There are over 280 locations within the Pennington expansion planned for 2020 and those locations can sign up for services at any time. This is required in order to get the fiber optic network installed up to the location during construction and receive services once the work is completed. The cooperative expects to develop the expansion plans for the Strawberry area later this year. The Strawberry area expansion will start in the spring of 2021 and be completed by June 30, 2022.
“These projects impact people’s lives. High quality, high bandwidth internet services are critical to economic growth and new educational opportunities.” added Steve Howard, Paul Bunyan Communications Information Technology and Development Manager. “It is the local support demonstrated by the Leech Lake leadership that was essential in getting our plans selected in a highly competitive process.” said Howard.
“Lack of access to quality Internet service creates a lot of difficulties for students, businesses, and residents. I’m excited to see both of these projects move forward. All Minnesotans should be able to access fast, reliable internet service and the Border to Border Broadband Grant program is making a big difference in helping to do just that.” added State 5A Representative John Persell. “I salute the hard work of our elected officials who championed the Border to Border Broadband Grant Program including Rep. Ecklund, Rep. Sandstede, Senator Bakk, Rep. Persell, Senator Tomassoni, and Rep. Layman. I also want to thank the Office of Broadband Development that oversees the program. This is going to make a world of difference in so many ways to a lot of people right here in northern Minnesota!” said Johnson. The Cooperative’s services will become available once the network is operational including GigaZone service options like unprecedented Broadband Internet speeds of up to 1000 Mbps – a Gigabit, digital and high definition TV services, and low cost unlimited local and long distance GigaZone voice service. There is no membership fee to join Paul Bunyan Communications, membership is included by subscribing to either local phone service or GigaZone Internet service.

CTC hosts open houses in Cherry Feb 27 & 28 to discuss new USDA supported network expansion

I reported on CTC’s USDA $5.2 million investment in Cherry and Great Scott townships on the Iron Range. The Hibbing Daily News reports more…

“We’re thrilled to receive this award,” said Kristi Westbrock, CEO and General Manager at CTC, in a statement. “Residents and business owners in the Cherry Township area have made it very clear that they need high-speed internet in order to thrive. We look forward to partnering with NESC and to serving this area for years to come.”

To help spread the word and answer questions about their internet services, staff from CTC are set to host two open houses this week at Cherry Town Hall, located off Highway 37, just outside Hibbing. The first open house will be held 4-6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27, and the second will be held 9-11 a.m. Friday, Feb. 28. Refreshments will be provided.

CTC is a member-owned cooperative according to their website. Anyone in the new service area who signs up before Feb. 29 will have the installation fee waived plus the first two months free with a monthly charge of $50 with a two-year contract.

And contact info…

For more information about the ReConnect Pilot Program, visit www.usda.gov/reconnect.

For general inquiries about CTC or the upcoming service to the Cherry area, call 218-231-9100, or visit www.goctc.com/cherry.

For questions about business services, call 218-454-1166, or email business@goctc.com. For questions about residential services, call 218-454-1144, or email residential@goctc.com.

Update on Paul Bunyan’s MN Broadband Grant for portions of Koochiching and St. Louis Counties

Great news for portions of Koochiching and St. Louis Counties…

Paul Bunyan Communications has been awarded a Border to Border Broadband Grant from the state of Minnesota to expand its fiber optic services to portions of Koochiching County and St. Louis County.
As a result, the cooperative will begin expansion construction in late 2020 and continue into 2021. This all fiber optic project will pass a minimum of 1,100 locations in portions of Koochiching and St. Louis County. The project is estimated to cost $5.68 million, with the State of Minnesota Border to Border grant contributing $2.35, Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB) grant contributing $802,700, and Paul Bunyan Communications investing $2.5 million. In support of the grant, Koochiching County will contribute $26,000 towards the portion of the project within the county and Morcom Township will contribute $10,000 towards the project within the township.
“This is huge for our region. Access to quality broadband service is vital to so many different facets of life including health care, education, business, and recreation. It is why I co-authored the bill to fund the Border to Border Grant Program in 2020 and introduced legislation to allocate another $30 million for the program in 2021. I applaud all those involved with supporting the effort to secure this grant so we can keep our rural communities thriving and vibrant.” said State 3A Representative Rob Ecklund.
“We are excited to continue our expansion efforts to provide access to broadband Internet speeds to those without it in our region. Our cooperative has a long history of expanding our network to underserved areas but it has become increasingly challenging to go it alone without grant support. The State of Minnesota Border to Border Grant Program, Koochiching County, Morcom Township, IRRRB, and the Koochiching Technology Initiative were instrumental in building community support for the grant application to make this project a reality. These areas will not only get Broadband access, they will go from slow satellite or dial up Internet to speeds of up to a Gigabit per second and become part of one of the largest rural Gigabit networks in the country!,” said Gary Johnson, Paul Bunyan Communications CEO/General Manager.
Paul Bunyan Communications expects to develop the expansion plans later this year and will contact locations along the upcoming expansion routes either late this fall or next spring. The entire project will be completed by June 30, 2022. To see if your location is included in this expansion project go to https://paulbunyan.net/gigazone/availability-map/
“This project will have an incredible impact on people’s lives. Employees will be able to work from home, students will have access to educational resources, and seniors will be able to stay in their homes longer with telemedicine.” added Steve Howard, Paul Bunyan Communications Information Technology and Development Manager. “The leadership shown in supporting this project through local efforts of many at KTI and Morcom Township was impressive. It is that local support that is essential in getting our grant selected in a highly competitive process.” said Howard.
“Morcom’s township officials currently have difficulty conducting basic governmental functions like filing tax documents due to a lack of internet access, not to mention the difficulties students, businesses, and residents experience when they can’t get online. I’m excited to see this project move forward and am committed to meeting our broadband connectivity goals so all Minnesotans can access the fast, reliable internet service they deserve.” added State 6A Representative Julie Sandstede.
“I salute the hard work of our elected officials who championed the Border to Border Broadband Grant Program including Rep. Ecklund, Rep. Sandstede, Senator Bakk, Rep. Persell, Senator Tomassoni, and Rep. Layman. I also want to thank the Office of Broadband Development that oversees the program. This is going to make a world of difference in so many ways to a lot of people right here in northern Minnesota!” said Johnson.
Cooperative’s services will become available once the network is operational including GigaZone service options like unprecedented Broadband Internet speeds of up to 1000 Mbps – a Gigabit and low cost unlimited local and long distance GigaZone voice service. There is no membership fee to join Paul Bunyan Communications, membership is included by subscribing to either local phone service or GigaZone Internet service.

CTC Receives $5.2 million from USDA to serve Cherry and Great Scott townships on the Iron Range

Big news from CTC for parts of the Iron Range…

Today, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Secretary Stephen Censky announced that USDA has invested $11 million in three, high-speed broadband infrastructure projects that will create or improve rural e-Connectivity for more than 1,395 rural households and nearly 120 businesses throughout several counties in Minnesota and northern Iowa. This is one of many funding announcements in the first round of USDA’s ReConnect Pilot Program investments. CTC was awarded a $5.2 million ReConnect Program grant to construct a fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) network of up to one gigabit of symmetrical high-speed internet to nearly 700 homes and public facilities in portions of Cherry and Great Scott townships in northeastern Minnesota’s Iron Range area. CTC will leverage existing middle-mile infrastructure, in partnership with Northeast Service Cooperative (NESC), and require only an additional 157.1 miles of new FTTP construction. The funded service area includes 667 households, two educational facilities and two critical community facilities in St. Louis County. CTC will invest $1,743,169 in the project; a 25% match. “We’re thrilled to receive this award,” said Kristi Westbrock, CEO and General Manager at CTC. “Residents and business owners in the Cherry Township area have made it very clear that they need high-speed internet in order to thrive. We look forward to partnering with NESC and to serving this area for years to come.”

As part of this round of funding, Harmony Telephone Company was also awarded a $2.7 million ReConnect Program loan and a $2.7 million ReConnect Program grant, while Osage Municipal Utilities in northern Iowa was awarded a $397,749 ReConnect Program grant. “When Americans are connected to high-speed internet, productivity and prosperity skyrocket,” Censky said. “This task of providing rural Americans with broadband is of the highest importance for President Trump and his Administration. We cannot leave millions of Americans out of the successes of this booming economy simply because they do not have access to the internet.” In March 2018, Congress provided $600 million to USDA to expand broadband infrastructure and services in rural America. On Dec. 13, 2018, Secretary Perdue announced the rules of the program, called “ReConnect,” including how the loans and grants will be awarded to help build broadband infrastructure in rural America. USDA received 146 applications between May 31, 2019, and July 12, 2019, requesting $1.4 billion in funding across all three ReConnect Program funding products: 100 percent loan, 100 percent grant, and loan-grant combinations. USDA is reviewing applications and announcing approved projects on a rolling basis. Additional investments in all three categories will be made in the coming weeks. More information about the ReConnect Pilot Program is available at http://www.usda.gov/reconnect. CTC is a technology advisor and full service telecommunications company based in Brainerd, MN. Formed in 1952, CTC has grown into a complete communications provider offering telephone, high-speed internet, digital television, and IT services to businesses and individuals throughout central and northern Minnesota. More information about CTC can be found at http://www.goctc.com.

Broadband in Swift County means Rick Molenaar lives local yet works out of San Francisco

Thanks to Swift County RDA for sharing this story. I love sharing stories of great use of broadband – so if you have one too, please send it my way…

Rick Molenaar has the best of both worlds. He lives in a place he loves and has a job that he enjoys. That’s all been possible thanks to Swift County’s border to border broadband. Swift County’s partnership with Federated Telephone has provided nearly ubiquitous coverage with speeds of 99.6%, making it the third-fastest county for broadband speeds in the state.

“I work for a company based out of San Francisco, but because of broadband a lot of that work takes place at my kitchen table,” said Rick. His company, Trace Genomics, takes agricultural soil samples, extracting the DNA and mapping the soil’s biology for farmers. It’s cutting edge technology that can have huge benefits for crop output. They already have a few early adopters within Swift county, along with many clients throughout the Midwest.

For Rick, the ability to be close to farmers and to food sources was important for his career, but also for his family. “I like that my children can see how the food we eat is produced at the local level. This is something I value and it is rare. Knowing the story of where your food comes from and how it is produced is healthy for kids and teaches them values,” he said.

Still, if it weren’t for fast broadband speeds in Swift County, Rick wouldn’t have the opportunity to live so close to the farming community. “Broadband has widened my opportunities tremendously. It has enabled me to have the role that I have. Broadband came to Swift County, in part, due to the work of the RDA. I wanted young people in our county to know that they can work for virtually any company while still living in Swift County – thanks to broadband. That’s why I joined the Swift RDA board – to spread the message that you can live in Swift County and have a career you love,” he said.

As a family, the Molenaars have all benefited from Rick’s ability to work remotely from Swift County. Joquel Molenaar grew up in the county, is a local school counselor and the volleyball coach. As a couple, they decided to raise their four boys in Swift County – close to her parents and to the activities they love. They are ten minutes from their lake cabin, with summer and winter activities right out their front door. Within their neighborhood, they have an added advantage of fifteen kids under ten living within a mile of the house – perfect playmates for their boys. “We get to have a lot of fun as a family. Living in Swift County has been ideal for us,” he said.

When asked why other families and young professionals should consider living in Swift County, Rick said, “Living in a small community and getting to know your neighbors is very unique. We know everyone and have built a lot of trust and our kids are able to be involved in every activity they are interested in. It’s also nice to have no traffic and be close to the fun activities we love to do.”

Live in Swift County, Work Anywhere

With border to border broadband and lightning-fast upload and download speeds, Swift County is the ideal place for telecommuters to live. A telecommuter can easily attend video conference calls, upload and email large files, work on video and graphic files, etc. Anyone who wants to live where they play, be able to purchase their dream home at an affordable price and live in a community where neighbors know each other’s names can do so while still working for employers locating somewhere else.

We invite you to consider the many benefits of living and working in Swift County by exploring our website and looking at available properties. Swift County’s broadband provides opportunities – you get to define them!

CenturyLink upgrades broadband services around Pipestone County MN

Pipestone Star reports…

CenturyLink has been installing fiber-optic cable around the city of Pipestone as part of a broadband upgrade that includes the installation of 25 fiber nodes throughout the community.

Some of those nodes have already been turned up.

The company currently offers DSL internet service with maximum advertised speed of 40 megabits per second (Mbps) downloading, and 2 Mbps uploading.

With the upgrades, fiber-optic service will be offered at 100 Mbps downloading, 10 Mbps uploading. State statutory goals are that all Minnesota businesses and homes will have access to high-speed broadband that provides minimum download speeds of at least 25 Mbps and minimum upload speeds of at least 3 Mbps by 2022. No later than 2026, those speeds increase to 100 Mbps downloading and 20 Mbps uploading.

CenturyLink is advertising prices of $49 per month for up to 100 Mbps. The fiber-optic speeds are believed to extend about a mile from a node, with lower speeds beyond that up to 2.5 miles.

They report that speeds are different throughout the county…

All of these options are available in varying degrees throughout Pipestone County. The fastest of these is fiber-optic but it’s also the most expensive to install. Woodstock Communications recently completed a fiber-optic upgrade that offers speeds in parts of Pipestone County of 1,000 Mbps up and down (or 1 gigabit per second up and down).

Companies like Woodstock Communications and CenturyLink have used the state’s Border-to-Border Broadband Grant program to help build broadband infrastructure into unserved and underserved areas of the state, according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. In this year’s 2019 legislative session, $20 million was appropriated for each of the next two years and is accessed by companies through competitive grant rounds that provide up to 50 percent of a project’s infrastructure costs to a maximum of $5 million.

 

RS Fiber gets an international shout out for publicly supported broadband

Open Democracy is taking a look at the UK’s proposed takes on broadband…

T his week, the Labour Party announced a bold new policy proposal that has shaken up the election race – publicly owned broadband internet, free to all. In the words of Jeremy Corbyn, the party’s leader, it is “a taster of the kind of fresh, transformational policies that will change your life.”

Under the plan, the government would purchase Openreach, the digital network operator that is a subsidiary of BT Group, and form a new publicly owned British Broadband company to extend high-speed internet access to every household, business, and institution in the country.

They look at what’s happening in other places…

However, in reality, governments around the world are taking the lead on developing the digital infrastructure necessary to develop thriving 21st century economies (just as they did with the electricity networks, roads, bridges, railroads, airports, and other vital economic infrastructure of the 20th century). They are doing so because in many cases the private sector, and specifically a shrinking group of giant for-profit telecommunications corporations, are unable and unwilling to equitably provide the necessary investment and service – leaving whole towns, regions, and socio-economic groups shut out of the modern economy and society.

Their examples include Minnesota’s RS Fiber…

Success stories include larger cities like Chattanooga, Tennessee (which was the first location in the US to offer 1Gbps service) where the publicly owned network added around $1 billion to the local economy in just 4 years; smaller towns such as Thomasville, Georgia, where the publicly owned network is credited with saving small businesses and maintaining a vibrant downtown area; and rural areas like south central Minnesota where RS Fiber (a cooperative supported by a joint powers agreement between 10 small cities and 17 townships) has extended broadband access to 6,200 homes, farms, and businesses across a wide geographic area.

Publicly owned broadband is not only increasingly popular in the United States, it also has demonstrated economic and social benefits.