Broadband Communities

AUG-SEP 2014

BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.

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AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2014 | | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | 37 network debt or keeping prices low to benefit the community. WindomNet chose to keep prices low. Te city decided to take out a $1 million line of credit from a local bank in 2005 to meet subscriber demand rather than putting new customers on a waiting list. In 2007, still needing to raise capital for new connections, the city issued $2.3 million in general obligation bonds that paid back the line of credit and paid back internal loans from other city departments. Not all of those requesting access were even within town limits. Fortune Trucking, which employs 47 people, decided to engage in a major IT upgrade in 2008. It verified that the private company that supplied it with telecommunications services at the time could support the new system with better connectivity. After it bought the system, Fortune found the private company could not fulfill its connectivity promises. Fortune considered shutting down and moving those jobs to New Mexico, but first it called Dan Olsen, WindomNet general manager. Tough Fortune Trucking was located a mile outside Windom, Olsen quickly agreed to get a fiber line out to the facility. In a 2011 story on Minnesota Public Radio, Dale Rothstein of Fortune Trucking observed, "It's a great relationship. When there is a problem, I call, and it's taken care of. It's great to have a local company to deal with." WindomNet benefits the city's residents and businesses in many ways that don't show up on an internal balance sheet. For example, it delivers free services to city buildings and the library, saving agencies tens of thousands of dollars each year that can be spent on direct public services. Windom has higher-capacity connections with better customer service for far lower prices than peer communities. WindomNet has even benefted nearby, smaller towns. Eight surrounding towns that were stuck on dial-up received a federal broadband stimulus award of $12.7 million, allowing them to build a 125-mile fber network ring that uses WindomNet as a hub. In expanding its networks to nearby communities, WindomNet follows in the footsteps of municipal networks in Reedsburg, Wisc., and Cedar Falls, Iowa, each of which expanded fber optic networks to what previously was dial-up country nearby. Now, residents of nearby Jackson, Lakefield, Round Lake, Bingham Lake, Brewster, Wilder, Heron Lake and Okabena have fiber optic connections capable of a gigabit rather than dial-up or satellite. No private company was interested in serving those small towns, even with significant federal subsidies. Because Windom embarked on a path of local self-reliance, it built a foundation capable of being expanded to meet its neighbors' needs. Critics of WindomNet have long claimed WindomNet was a money- losing failure. However, Windom's business model called for the network to break even in the seventh year, and in recent years, network expenses have been roughly in balance with revenues after depreciation. ILSR estimates that Windom used about $1 million in tax dollars to support WindomNet over its frst 10 years. Was this a wise use of taxpayer dollars? Tat $100,000 per year kept at least 47 jobs in the community; almost certainly, more were retained and yet more attracted. WindomNet brought gigabit service to some of the smallest towns in the world. In providing free services to the library and city buildings, it efectively reduced taxes that would have otherwise been spent on telecommunications. Property values are almost certainly higher, both in Windom and the surrounding communities, than they would be without fber access. SIBLEY COUNTY After unsuccessfully asking incumbent providers to expand and improve broadband access, the Winthrop City Council tasked town administrator Mark Erickson to work with other local governments in the region to develop a

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