New Ulm– Business, industry and political leaders recently gathered in St. Paul, Minn., to celebrate the new Southern Minnesota Broadband network. Independent telecommunications companies serving southern Minnesota have joined together to create a broadband network that will spur economic activity in the region and expand advanced and interconnected services for new and existing business customers.
The SMB fiber network has a backbone of 760 miles, including about 200 miles of newly deployed route miles. It extends across southern Minnesota from the border of South Dakota to Wisconsin, and from south of the Twin Cities to Iowa. The next phase of expansion is expected to connect communities in north central Iowa directly into the network.
“We’ve put together a robust network in southern Minnesota,” Bill Otis, who chairs the Board of Governors of the new group. He’s also the President and CEO of NU-Telecom. “It provides additional fiber routes for our customers as well as for businesses that want to get into our service area.”
The project has been in the works since 2014. It leverages the thousands of existing fiber miles that make up the underlying networks built and operated by these rural telecom companies. Construction of the linked network was completed during the final quarter of 2015 and opened for business in early 2016.
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, was among the speakers at the launch event. She told the audience that one of Minnesota’s greatest strengths is having a thriving business community that continues outside the metropolitan areas. The network strengthens the communications infrastructure in this rural region, providing greater interconnectivity and expanded access to advanced telecom service, such as cybersecurity protection.
U.S. Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota could not attend the event, but provided a video statement to thank people and companies for their work. “The work you’re doing is critical to making sure that our schools, libraries and health care facilities are connected to the world. In the 21st Century, commerce, connectivity and the livelihood of millions of Americans is dependent on a strong broadband network,” Franken said.
SMB provides networking and Internet services to industries such as agriculture, banking, education, government, health care, manufacturing and retail. The network also creates new opportunities to conduct business at the wholesale level with the national wireless carriers, such as providing lit backhaul between wireless towers, which can improve communications reliability for mobile wireless customers.
The backbone network positions the eight participating companies, as well as rural communities within the service territory, to compete for new business opportunities on a local, regional, and national scale.
The eight partner companies include:
• AcenTek of Houston, Minn.
• BEVCOMM of Blue Earth, Minn.
• Communications 1 of Kanawha, Iowa
• Jaguar Communications of Le Sueur, Minn.
• KMTelecom of Kasson, Minn.
• NU-Telecom of New Ulm, Minn.
• Woodstock Telephone of Ruthton, Minn.
• SDN Communications of Sioux Falls, S.D.
SDN is the managing partner of the network. Now, the phone companies will operate more as a single, vast fiber-optic network while retaining their independence.
“These communities were already well served before the network expansion, but by coming together, the companies are in a stronger position to compete for regional and national opportunities, such as serving businesses with multiple branch locations across Minnesota and the region,” says SDN Communications CEO Mark Shlanta.
The new fiber network, though operating at the southern and western periphery of the Twin Cities, has metro-area relevance since SBM has a fiber conduit extending into Minneapolis with secondary linkages into the east metro. This means a company hypothetically based in the Twin Cities but with operations to the south would now enjoy near-flawless broadband links across a vast swath of Minnesota territory.