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The mythical Paul Bunyan was enormous. Paul Bunyan Communications’ GigaZone appears to be following his example as it continues to expand throughout northern rural Minnesota. The cooperative recently announced that they are expanding the upgrade once again, bringing Gigabit per second (Gbps) capacity to their members via the Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network. This time, members in the communities of Kelliher and Northome will have access to the upgrade.
The Big Gig
The expansion brings gigabit network to more than 1,700 additional locations; this will bring Paul Bunyan’s GigaZone footprint to more than 29,400 locations. The network covers more than 5,000 square miles in Beltrami County and also reaches areas of Cass, Hubbard, Itasca, Koochiching, and St. Louis Counties.
In November 2016, the cooperative began offering service on the Red Lake Nation, which makes it one of only a few tribal communities with high-quality Internet access. Paul Bunyan provides gigabit connectivity to local schools for affordable rates and has been awarded the Leading Lights National Award for most Innovative Gigabit Broadband Service.
A Long Time Coming
Paul Bunyan Telephone began in 1950 when the residents in very rural northern Minnesota either had no telephone service, or received it from their townships, which meant they had to share lines with up to nine other customers. As a prerequisite to obtaining a loan from the Rural Telephone Administration (RTA) through the Rural Electric Administration (REA), the Co-op Board had to purchase and operate an existing system. They started with the privately owned Kelliher Telephone Company along with the Hendrickson Township Telephone system. In addition funds they had obtained by selling memberships in the cooperative, the board directors agreed to mortgage their own property as collateral so another local cooperative and a local bank would loan Paul Bunyan Telephone enough to purchase both telephone systems. It was a risk, but it paid off.
Over the decades,... Read more
Native American communities throughout the United States have rather bleak figures when it comes to Internet access. That’s about to change.
In Minnesota, Red Lake Nation now has access to some of the fastest Internet service in the entire country. The telephone cooperative Paul Bunyan Communications has extended its GigaZone, offering a Gigabit (1,000 Megabits) per second Internet service, to the tribal nation.
In Red Lake Nation News, Tribal Chairman Darrell Seki, Sr., described the benefits of this new high-speed Internet access:
“Having access to fiber Internet services is vital to our rural economy and impacts so many aspects of life. To start a new business, find a good job, or get a high quality education you need a quality high-speed Internet connection. The GigaZone is on the cutting edge of technology and enhances the Red Lake Nation's unique assets, including a large workforce and the Red Lake Nation College, for economic development and business expansion. We're excited about the positive impact this will have on our Tribe now and well into the future."
The Gigabit service will be available in the communities of Red Lake, Redby, Little Rock and Ponemah. The Red Lake Nation is home to about 13,000 Ojibwe members, and is the only “closed reservation” (meaning that the land is held in common) in Minnesota. The nation is a model of self-reliance: they just announced the launch of an all-solar electricity project.
The high-speed Internet service is provided by Paul Bunyan Communications based out of Bemidji, Minnesota, which is about 45 minutes south of Red Lake. The telephone cooperative has built out one of the largest Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) networks in the United States. Read more of our coverage of Paul Bunyan Communications; we expect to see even more from... Read more
Paul Bunyan Communications in Minnesota reports it has expanded its “GigaZone” Internet service territory to Turtle River, Puposky, and Tenstrike and to additional areas of Bemidji.
More than 2,800 additional locations now have access to, among other services, Internet speeds of up to 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) following the recent upgrades to its fiber-optic communications network, the Bemidji-based co-op notes.
"Over the next several months we'll be activating the GigaZone in many more areas,” Gary Johnson, CEO of Paul Bunyan Communications, said in a company statement. "We will continue to do as much as we can to bring the GigaZone to all our members and the communities we serve as fast as we can."
GigaZone Locations Top 20,000
The co-op said its GigaZone service is now available to more than over 21,600 locations. Previous areas served include rural Park Rapids, Lake George, Trout Lake Township east of Grand Rapids, most of Grand Rapids, Cohasset, and LaPrairie.
The co-op has an online map showing the active areas of the GigaZone as well as future areas that are set for construction. The co-op said that members who subscribe to GigaZone Broadband can also add PBTV Fusion and/or low cost unlimited long distance phone service.
Co-op Wins Award In 2015
About a year ago, we reported that Paul Bunyan Communications won the 2015 Leading Lights National Award for Most Innovative Gigabit Broadband Service. The northern Minnesota cooperative beat out both local innovative local firms like C Spire and national companies like Google.
We first reported on Paul Bunyan Telephone Communications in 2009. The co-op began expanding its existing fiber network in 2007, but Gigabit connectivity did not become available to members until earlier in 2015. Upgrades began in Bemidji and will continue to include the cooperative's entire 5,000... Read more
Time to celebrate the work of rural cooperatives that bring high-quality Internet access to residents and businesses forgotten by national corporate providers. October is National Cooperative Month! Let’s celebrate some of the accomplishments of those cooperatives providing next-generation connectivity.
We pulled together a list of cooperatives who were actively advertising residential access to a Gigabit (1,000 Mbps) at the end of 2015. These cooperatives rang in 2016 with Gigabit speeds, inspiring others to improve rural connectivity throughout the U.S.
To assemble the list, we used Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Form 477 data from December 2015 to find all the providers advertising a residential Gigabit download speed. This generated a list of about 200 providers. Those providers were then manually sorted into “cooperative” or “not cooperative” based on publicly available information. If you would like to make a correction or suggestion concerning this list, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
2015’s Gigabit Cooperatives
Minnesota's Paul Bunyan Communications' is bringing better connectivity to homes and businesses across northern rural Minnesota via fiber. The cooperative is also helping local school districts save precious dollars while obtaining the Internet access kids need for a 21st century education.
The cooperative recently announced it is now serving all schools in the GigaZone, the area served by its fiber network, and every school can upgrade to gigabit Internet services at no extra charge.
"The GigaZone will provide the school districts Gigabit Internet speeds throughout the school day so educators and students alike can use the Internet faster and more efficiently. This upgrade is being provided at no extra charge so districts can stay within their budget and prepare their students for the future and the new technologies it will bring," said Steve Howard, Paul Bunyan Communications IT & Development Manager.
Recent studies reveal that rural schools grapple with high rates for Internet access, often because there is only one provider who takes advantage of their solo position. Paul Bunyan Communications is one of the many telecommunications cooperatives that serve rural regions that are owned by the people they serve. Like municipal networks, cooperatives typically display a concern for the community rather than maximizing profit.
Paul Bunyan is continuing to expand its current GigaZone coverage area. The coop now serves over 14,000 locations in rural Park Rapids, Lake George, Trout Lake Township east of Grand Rapids, most of Grand Rapids, and portions of Bemidji. The goal is to cover the 5,000 square mile service area now served by the cooperative.
Iowa, known across the country for its agriculture, is known in other circles for its exciting community broadband projects. Earlier this year President Obama visited Cedar Falls to praise its municipal network and to support other efforts to improve rural high-speed Internet access. One of those efforts is Wiatel. This small telecommunications coop is beginning a $25 million project to upgrade its network from copper to fiber throughout its entire service area.
The cooper network that Wiatel uses now is sufficient for basic phone service, but upgrading to fiber will future-proof the network and provide better Internet speeds. The coop is based out of Lawton, a small town of about 1,000 people, but the coop serves an area of 700 miles. Wiatel hopes to start burying the fiber cables in the summer of 2016. Once the project gets started, officials from the cooperative estimate they will connect all residential and business customers to fiber within 24-30 months.
Wiatel is part of a long-growing movement as rural coops build fiber networks or upgrade to fiber to improve services for members. Just check out the Triangle Communications coop in Montana, the Paul Bunyan Communications coop in Minnesota, or Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative in Alabama. They’re providing next-generation connectivity at reasonable prices to rural communities often ignored by the large incumbent telephone and cable companies.
Coops: An Alternative
Without an immediate return on investment, large corporate providers have little incentive to build in sparsely populated areas. Traditional corporate providers must answer to shareholders seeking short term profits. Cooperatives are owned by the people they serve, giving their shareholders a practical, real, tangible interest in the success of the endeavor and the community it serves.... Read more
Sometimes we just want to celebrate a small victory for local communities. Back in June, Paul Bunyan Communications won the 2015 Leading Lights National Award for Most Innovative Gigabit Broadband Service.
This small cooperative from rural northern Minnesota beat both innovative local firms like C Spire and national companies like Google. Whereas Comcast is rolling out Gigabit Pro in Silicon Valley, Paul Bunyan Communications is serving sparsely populated, often-ignored, rural areas. Gary Johnson, the Paul Bunyan Communications CEO/General Manager was honored to accept the award and explained their approach to gigabit access:
“It is one of the first gigabit network initiatives that will encompassas a large rural area and I think that is significant. Many of the gigabit network projects taking place are in small portions of densely populated metropolitan areas. Too often, the more challenging rural America gets overlooked.”
Paul Bunyan Communications has created a GigaZone passing 7,800 locations, and will soon include 20,000 locations by the end of this year. Those in the GigaZone will have the opportunity to buy a Gigabit connection for only $100 a month. The goal for the small telecom cooperative is to expand the GigaZone to encompass the entire 5,000 square mile service area. Now, that deserves an award.
The Spokane Business Journal recently wrote about the community broadband system in Pend Oreille County, long a favored destination for all seasons outdoor recreation. Beginning in 2013, the Pend Oreille County Public Utility District (PUD) began providing residents and tourists with high-speed fiber to the premises broadband via a 573-mile fiber network. The network was made possible by a $27 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grant.
Private companies commonly say that such rural areas are not densely populated enough to justify investing in high-speed broadband infrastructure, leaving many rural communities on the disadvantaged side of the digital divide. High-speed community broadband systems like the one in Pend Oreille County cancel out this potential problem as they allow tourists, residents, and businesses alike to be closely connected with nature while staying connected for business demands. Indeed, as the website for Pend Oreille County’s Economic Development Council makes clear, the community broadband service is at the core of the county’s ambitious plans to attract people and businesses to the area.
In our recent report, ”All Hands On Deck: Minnesota Local Government Models for Expanding Fiber Internet Access,” we wrote about rural communities in Minnesota like Cook County where the tourist industry is a large part of the local economy. As in Pend Oreille, insufficient Internet negatively impacted resorts, lodges, and outfitters that depended on customers who needed more than dial-up Internet access. To solve their problem, they invested in a municipal fiber network.
Local community and business leaders report that they have also started to see people and businesses relocating to the county, encouraged by the area’s combination of fiber-optic broadband and outdoor recreation offerings.
Alex Stanton, an IT executive whose company is stationed near the banks of the Pend Oreille River in the small town of Newport,... Read more
The northern half of Minnesota, despite its rural character, is rapidly improving in high quality Internet access. Paul Bunyan Communications, the cooperative serving much of the Bemijdi area, began work on its GigaZone network last fall and the network is snaking its way across the region. According to an April 20th press release from the cooperative, GigaZone is now available to 500 more locations from the rural areas near Lake George to Itasca State Park. This brings the number of customers with access to GigaZone to 5,000.
Rates for symmetrical Internet access range from $44.95 per month for 20 Mbps to $74.95 per month for 50 Mbps. Higher speeds are available, including gigabit Internet access, but the cooperative asks potential customers to call for pricing.
We first reported on Paul Bunyan Telephone Communications in 2009. The cooperative began expanding its existing fiber network in 2007 but gigabit connectivity did not become available to members until earlier this year. Upgrades began in Bemidji and will continue to include the cooperatives entire 5,000 square mile service area. As new lines are installed, older lines will also be upgraded to fiber to transform the entire network.
The cooperative began offering Internet access in 1996 as Paul Bunyan Telephone. Three years later, Paul Bunyan began infrastructure upgrades that allowed it to offer phone, high-speed Internet access, and digital television. The network expanded incrementally and continued to implement technological improvements. In 2005, the cooperative expanded with fiber technology for the first time. In 2010, Paul Bunyan Telephone changed its name to Paul Bunyan Communications.
At an event to announce GigaZone last fall, leadership from the region's economic development commission noted the new unleashed potential:
Greater Bemidji Director Dave Hengel compared Paul Bunyan to pioneering software giant Apple.
“In many, many ways, Paul Bunyan Communications has become the Apple of greater... Read more