Cooperative will bring broadband network to over 280 locations
BEMIDJI — Paul Bunyan Communications is expanding its all-fiber optic network to parts of Southeast Beltrami County in the Pennington area this year and recently was awarded a Border to Border Broadband Grant from the state of Minnesota to expand its fiber optic services to the Strawberry area in 2021
As a result of the recently announced grant, the cooperative will begin expansion construction to the Strawberry area in the spring of 2021. This all fiber optic project will make advanced fiber-optic services available to over 200 locations. The project is estimated to cost $581,600, with the State of Minnesota Border to Border grant contributing $261,720 and Paul Bunyan Communications investing $319,880.
“This is a big deal for those who live in the Pennington and Strawberry area. Access to quality broadband service is vital to so many different facets of life including health care, education, business, and recreation. I applaud Paul Bunyan Communications and all those involved to secure the necessary funding and continue to expand to provide this essential service to more of our tribal members. We will continue to work with Paul Bunyan to secure additional grant funding to bring broadband to other parts of the reservation that remain without access” said Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Tribal Chairman Faron Jackson, Sr.
“We are excited to continue our expansion efforts to provide access to broadband Internet speeds to those without it in our region. Our cooperative has a long history of expanding to underserved areas but it has become increasingly challenging to go it alone without grant support. The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe was instrumental in supporting our grant application to make this project a reality. These areas will not only get Broadband access, they will go from slow satellite or dial up Internet to speeds of up to a Gigabit per second and become part of one of the largest rural Gigabit networks in the country!,” said Gary Johnson, Paul Bunyan Communications CEO/General Manager.
There are over 280 locations within the Pennington expansion planned for 2020 and those locations can sign up for services at any time. This is required in order to get the fiber optic network installed up to the location during construction and receive services once the work is completed. The cooperative expects to develop the expansion plans for the Strawberry area later this year. The Strawberry area expansion will start in the spring of 2021 and be completed by June 30, 2022.
“These projects impact people’s lives. High quality, high bandwidth internet services are critical to economic growth and new educational opportunities.” added Steve Howard, Paul Bunyan Communications Information Technology and Development Manager. “It is the local support demonstrated by the Leech Lake leadership that was essential in getting our plans selected in a highly competitive process.” said Howard.
“Lack of access to quality Internet service creates a lot of difficulties for students, businesses, and residents. I’m excited to see both of these projects move forward. All Minnesotans should be able to access fast, reliable internet service and the Border to Border Broadband Grant program is making a big difference in helping to do just that.” added State 5A Rep. John Persell.
The Cooperative’s services will become available once the network is operational including GigaZone service options like unprecedented Broadband Internet speeds of up to 1000 Mbps – a Gigabit, digital and high definition TV services, and low cost unlimited local and long distance GigaZone voice service. There is no membership fee to join Paul Bunyan Communications, membership is included by subscribing to either local phone service or GigaZone Internet service.