June will be an exciting month for people living in Brownton, Buffalo Lake, Fairfax, and Stewart in Minnesota. RS Fiber Cooperative will begin construction so those premises can connect to the Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network now serving six other communities in the central Minnesota region. This stage of the buildout should bring another 500 subscribers on to the network by the end of the year; the network already serves 1,100 premises.
Bringing The Last Towns Into The Fold
“As construction of the network continues, we expect our customer numbers to continue to grow. Once we have the final four towns connected to the network, construction can begin on Phase Two of the project which will involve bringing gigabit fiber service to the township members of the RS Fiber Cooperative.”
Customers who take FTTH service now can sign up for voice, video, and Internet access up to 1 Gigabit per second (1,000 Mbps). Addresses that are outside the fiber connection service area have been able to obtain service from the cooperative via its fixed wireless RS Air service.
A Story Of Peaks And Valleys On The Prairie
The RS Fiber Cooperative story began in Sibley and Renville Counties as a regional municipal effort but when Sibley County pulled out, the project had to restructure their plan and design a new strategy. Rather than leave the rural farms behind, the participants decided to form a broadband cooperative to serve as many premises as possible.
Local farms - some of which had no Internet access at all - needed high-quality Internet access in order to operate in the modern agricultural economy. National providers had decided that the area was too sparsely populated to justify investment, so the locals decided they needed to act.
The project has had its challenges, but has overcome each one and in the process won numerous awards. This past May, the RS Fiber Cooperative received the “Cornerstone Award” from Broadband Communities Magazine “for dedication, persistence, and vision in securing the benefits of broadband for their communities.” They received the recognition at the Broadband Communities Summit in Dallas early in May.
One Job At A Time
The network has already added ten new jobs to the region and network officials expect more economic development as it expands and takes on more subscribers.
Read the details about the RS Fiber story in our 2016 case study, RS Fiber: Fertile Fields for New Rural Internet Cooperative. You can also listen to Christopher's interview with Mark Erickson City of Winthrop Economic Development Authority Director and Renville-area farmer Jake Rieke who are both on the RS Fiber board; he spoke to them during episode 198 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.