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.

Mediacom hits 50,000 Gigabit Broadband Customer Milestone

Big news from Mediacom

Mediacom Communications announced today the company now has more than 50,000 combined residential and business customers subscribing to its 1-Gig internet (1,000 megabits per second) service offerings. In 2017, Mediacom began systematically launching gigabit internet services as part of an aggressive 3-year, $1 billion capital investment strategy. By the end of that same year, Mediacom had become the first major U.S. cable company to launch 1-Gig internet across its national network. “The growing popularity of gigabit internet in our markets is proof positive that our fiber-rich network has become a true economic and social engine for the small cities and towns we serve across America,” said John Pascarelli, Mediacom’s Executive Vice President of Operations. “Whether Mediacom’s network is incubating tech start-ups, supporting tele-medicine initiatives, connecting growing businesses to the global marketplace or providing senior citizens with the tools to continue living comfortably in their own homes, we are proud that our private investments have become a catalyst for public good.” Earlier this year, Mediacom joined with NCTA – The Internet & Television Association, CableLabs and other industry partners in announcing plans to expand beyond the current gigabit offerings to a more powerful 10G technology platform. The next great advancement in broadband, 10G will combine greater capacity and lower latency with symmetrical 10 gigabit per second speeds. With field trials planned for 2020, Mediacom is positioned to once again be at the forefront of the next internet speed revolution. “Our rapid deployment of 1-Gig internet demonstrated Mediacom’s ability to deliver ultra-fast speeds in the communities we serve more quickly and economically than other providers,” continued Pascarelli. “The scalability of our fiber-rich network is perfectly situated to harness the incredible power and promise of 10G.” “Mediacom’s success in deploying gigabit service across its footprint in both urban and rural communities demonstrates the cable industry’s leadership in making America a leader in today’s global digital economy,” said Michael Powell, President & CEO, NCTA – The Internet & Television Association. “As we push ahead with the industry’s 10G vision, we already have a foundational network in place with the scalability and power to meet America’s internet demand well into the future.”

Gigabit service now offered in St. Joseph (Stearns County)

The News Leaders reports…

A significant speed upgrade to Midco’s St. Joseph service announced Oct. 8 will mean faster, more reliable internet for residents and businesses. Higher-speed service will spur innovation, economic development and education, company leaders said.

Midco announced a $2.1 million technology and facility investment that opens the way for the gigabit internet service.

The new technology provides up to 35 times faster than average internet service, according to the company.

From Midco’s St. Joseph facility, the gigabit service branches out to 15 other Central Minnesota cities.

Finding ways to provide high-speed internet for small cities and rural areas is a big issue for government and the event attracted a number of local, state and national officials.

St. Joseph Mayor Rick Shultz said the faster service should help the city attract start-up, high-tech businesses as well as residents who need fast, reliable internet to work from home.

Rep. Tom Emmer, a member of the House of Representatives Rural Broadband Caucus, said that high-speed internet is a key infrastructure investment that will allow people to continue to live outside of big cities but still access to jobs and services.

Includes the following areas…

The other Central Minnesota cities branching off from the St. Joseph equipment are: Annandale, Avon, Becker, Clear Lake, Clearwater, Cold Spring, Foley, Holdingford, Pierz, Richmond, Rockville, Royalton, St. Augusta, St. Stephen and Waite Park.