Southwest Minnesota Broadband Services

To the governing board of Southwest Minnesota Broadband Services for their vision and multi-community collaboration in creating a public regional fiber network that serves residential and business customers in eight rural communities ranging from 59 to just over 3,200 people.

  • In 2011, the communities of Jackson, Brewster, Bingham Lake, Heron Lake, Lakefield, Wilder, Okabena, and Round Lake began exploring a broadband solution.
  • Community leaders were prepared for and successful in getting a $12.8 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding to build a world-class Fiber to the Home service.
  • The Southwest Minnesota Broadband Services network passes 3,500 residences, 292 businesses and 50 anchor institutions.

In addition to providing the region with access to fast, reliable, and affordable broadband, the network has helped local governments be more efficient.  Telephone calls from one town to another are now toll free rather than long distance.

Travis Thies, General Manager

What do you see as your biggest broadband victory?

Aside from bringing gigabit internet to our residents, our biggest victory has been keeping and growing our local businesses. Before we built our network, there were businesses considering relocation because of lack of broadband. The fiber network really secured a future for them in our communities. It was the most immediate relief.

Another win we’re seeing are the number of individuals who have relocated and are working from home. Now that we have the broadband connection, there is nothing holding someone back who wants to move to our area.

What role did local leadership play in your accomplishments?

None of this would have happened without local leadership. The early leaders were able to see that broadband would be essential for future economic growth and that they needed to put skin in the game to get world-class broadband.

Looking back at the initial collaborations they forged, those connections laid the groundwork for our success. This was illustrated during our network build when costs were rising, and we needed more resources to continue. The contributing communities doubled down on their commitment to make Southwest Minnesota Broadband Services a reality.

What words of encouragement would you give to community leaders working to improve broadband access?

Never give up — there’s always a way. Some broadband models, like municipals, get a bad rap. We’ve ignored the critics and overcome all the obstacles in our way. We keep doing what we do and have been successful in the communities we serve. Find what works for your community and keep pushing. There’s going to be a way to get it done.