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.

Paul Bunyan annoucces The GigaZone Comes to Big Falls (Koochiching County)

Big news for Big Falls…

The GigaZone has come to Big Falls! As a result of continued upgrades to the cooperative’s all-fiber optic network, members in Big Falls now have access to GigaZone services including Internet speeds up to a Gigabit per second.

“We continue to make great progress on upgrading our network to incorporate even more members into the GigaZone. I’m very proud of all the hard work our cooperative has put in so far as we put our membership and region at the forefront of the very latest in communication networks.” said Gary Johnson, Paul Bunyan Communications CEO/General Manager.

The GigaZone is currently available to over 35,500 locations, making it one of the largest rural all-fiber optic networks in the United States! Check out our online map http://paulbunyan.net/gigazone/map/ showing the current areas of the GigaZone as well as those that will be constructed/upgraded in the future.

GigaZone service options include unprecedented Broadband Internet speeds of up to 1000 Mbps – a Gigabit. Members who subscribe to GigaZone Broadband can also add PBTV Fusion and/or low cost unlimited long distance service. All current service options also remain available to cooperative members within the GigaZone.

Many current wireless routers cannot support blazing GigaZone Internet speeds.  To help, the cooperative is offering GigaZone Integrated Wi-Fi that uses the latest in advanced Wi-Fi technologies to maximize the in-home wireless experience. This service is free to all new GigaZone customers for the first six months, with a minimal charge thereafter.

Paul Bunyan Communications recently mailed out information to the new locations that are now in the GigaZone and the cooperative has an online map available at http://paulbunyan.net/gigazone/map/ showing the active areas of the GigaZone as well as those areas that will be constructed/upgraded in the future.

“If you are wondering when the GigaZone will reach you, the online map of the active areas and plans for this year is a great resource.” added Brian Bissonette, Paul Bunyan Communications Marketing Supervisor.

Paul Bunyan Communications has the region’s largest and fastest all fiber optic network with over 5,500 square miles throughout most of Beltrami County and portions of Cass, Hubbard, Itasca, Koochiching, and St. Louis Counties. The Cooperative provides Broadband High Speed Internet Services including the GigaZone, digital and high definition television services, digital voice services, Residential and Business IT services, and is also northern Minnesota’s certified Apple Service Center.

Prairie Island Indian Community now enjoys Gig access through HBC

HBC reports

Members of the Prairie Island Indian Community now have access to the fasted Internet service available with the completion of a new Fiber-To-The-Home (FTTH) network constructed by Hiawatha Broadband Communications (HBC) of Winona, MN.

According to HBC President Dan Pecarina, every residence now has access to symmetrical Gigabit (1,000 megabits) broadband. He said that having access to that level of high-speed broadband will be life-changing for the community members.

“Having access to symmetrical Gigabit Internet will enhance the lives of the residents of the Prairie Island community exponentially by allowing an array of advantages. These super-fast speeds will have a dramatic impact on everything from economic development and education, to the delivery of healthcare, and other community services.”

The struggle for broadband connectivity is real for rural America, but even more so in rural Indian communities. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) about 8 percent of Americans, an estimated 24 million people, still have no access to in-home high-speed internet service. That percentage is even higher for rural Indian communities. According to an FCC report, roughly 35 percent of Americans living in tribal lands lack access to any broadband services.

The burden of bringing high-speed broadband to rural areas has fallen on smaller providers, like HBC. Large broadband companies prefer densely populated areas where their return on investment is greater. The HBC high-speed broadband network provides Internet, Video, and Phone services to over 30 rural communities in Minnesota and west-central Wisconsin.

But bringing the high-speed network to the tribal community required communication, coordination, special permitting, and a little patience.

“HBC has been working with tribal leaders for the past few years to build a network to serve the community,” Pecarina explained. “The process to build on tribal land was fairly lengthy and, at times, frustrating. While there were significant delays due to the federal government approval process, once the project received the necessary approvals, things came together rather quickly.”

Construction on the Prairie Island FTTH network began in June with the first community member homes being connected to the network in September.

This is the third fiber-optic network project that HBC has brought to the Prairie Island. In 2017, HBC worked with Dakota County and Dakota Electric Association to build a fiber optic connection to the Prairie Island area for County and Electric Association purposes. HBC turned their portion of the fiber build into fiber to the home service along the route and to install High Density WiFi Technology at the Treasure Island Resort, Pow Wow grounds, and the Casino’s outdoor amphitheater. HBC also offers Video service to Treasure Island Resort properties along with a variety of additional data services.

“This is a prime example of what public, private, and co-operative entities can accomplish when they work together.” Pecarina stated. “The Prairie Island Tribal Council’s broadband vision and the cooperative work with HBC to build this network for its community, is proof that fiber based broadband services can reach even some of the most remote areas.”

Le Sueur County helps Bevcomm prepare for MN broadband grant application

Le Sueur County News reports…

Le Sueur County Commissioners met with several cable providers July 16 to explore the possibility of installing fiber optic cable across the county to reach under-served rural areas. The internet service provider Bevcomm expressed interest in the project and the county commissioners voted to approve a new loan program to help the company with its grant application.

Here are more details…

However, these plans face a major obstacle: cost. To reach unserved areas, it could cost between $16.5 million and $19 million depending on how many households are serviced. In order to be able to pay for the project, Konechne said the county will need to find an ISP willing to contribute $3-4 million in equity and a grant of at least $1 million.

County Administrator Darrell Pettis came to the Board of Commissioners during a July 22 meeting to report the county’s progress in courting ISP partners. Several telephone, cable and internet service providers, including Bevcomm, Jaguar and the Minnesota Valley Electric Cooperative (MVEC) expressed an interest in a partnership. Among the three providers who have expressed interest, Pettis stated that Bevcomm was the most intrigued.

Bevcomm has asked the county if they are willing to offer a loan within the range of $20,000 and $30,000. This would be used to apply for a $5 million state grant.

“The program is more of a points getter,” said Pettis. “If they can show some county or local government interest and support, then they can get some extra points to go toward their grant program.”

The county, however, did not have a loan program for this type of project, so Pettis asked if the commissioners would be interested in creating one. The program would need to be created before the July 31 grant application deadline.

Commissioner Steven Rohlfing asked what would happen if the Bevcomm refused to pay back the loan.

“We use the courts,” Pettis answered. “If we had a revolving loan program they would have a responsibility to pay us back.”

“They have no intention of actually using the dollars,” Pettis added. “The intention is to get points.”

The commissioners voted 4-0 to create a revolving loan program specifically for broadband economic development. Commissioner Lance Wetzel was absent.

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.