Harmony Telephone Company Brings Fiber Optic Internet to Harmony Amid Federal, State Broadband Efforts – Post Bulletin | Panda Anku

HARMONY, Minnesota — On Monday, Harmony Telephone Company announced that construction of its $2.5 million fiber optic installation in the city of Harmony will begin next week. The company-funded project builds on federal and statewide efforts to expand access to broadband Internet, particularly in rural areas.

“Fiber is changing everything,” HTC CEO Jill Huffman said at Monday’s announcement ceremony in Selvig Park. “My team is excited to provide this reliable internet service and help subscribers set up wireless networks to enable things like telecommuting, real-time video surveillance of property and equipment, and viewing of streaming services.”

Because fiber optic cable installation is dependent on weather conditions and ground temperature, Huffman said it’s hard to determine when construction will be complete, but she hopes HTC will start connecting some customers to the service by late fall or early winter becomes.

Broadband Internet is relatively accessible in many counties in Southeast Minnesota. Diane Wells, Associate Director, Office of Broadband Development, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, Olmsted County currently has 84% ​​broadband coverage, Winona County has 76%, and Freeborn County has 72%.

“That’s because of some vendors like MiBroadband, AcenTek, HBC … which I know do a good job of delivering service down there,” Wells said.

Minnesota Assemblyman Greg Davids, R-Preston also spoke to local businesses taking the initiative to expand their broadband offerings in his district.

“MiEnergy and Harmony Telephone and AcenTek have been very aggressive and we’ve actually done some work to bring this broadband to the people,” said Davids.

However, Fillmore County still has some catching up to do.

“Fillmore is only around 33%,” Wells said of the county’s broadband coverage. “Fillmore and Mower: They’re the two that stand out in that southeast corner that’s behind the rest of the state’s counties. But we will make it.”

Brian Krambeer, President and CEO of MiEnergy, and Jill Huffman, CEO of Harmony Telephone Company, pose on Monday, August 15, 2022 at a ceremony celebrating the launch of a $2.5 million fiber optic Internet expansion project for the residents of Harmony.

Dené K. Dryden / Post Bulletin

And there’s a lot of interest in getting there — Wells said her office will soon allocate $95 million in combined state and American Rescue Plan Act funds to fund broadband deployment projects, and through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Minnesota will receive at least $100 million toward broadband access.

“While the state of Minnesota, the Legislature and the Governors have focused on broadband deployment since 2014, when they began funding our Border-to-Border grant program just last year, we are seeing a tremendous influx of federal funding for Broadband through the American Rescue Plan Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act,” Wells said.

Although the Harmony fiber project will not be funded with state or federal dollars, Huffman said public-private partnerships like ARPA are helpful in developing broadband access in more rural parts of southeast Minnesota.

“It’s going to be very expensive to build in the really rural parts of the area,” she said. “At this point, these public-private partnerships really need to exist to increase the speed at which we can deliver broadband. Without these partnerships, it would be many, many years before we could recoup enough investment to reinvest in these rural areas.”

Davids said his goal is for the Minnesota legislature not to stop until everyone who wants broadband can access it.

“That will, you know, require continued funding from the state, which I’ve supported over the years, and hopefully after the election we can get together and get something done as well, because this happens to be a very bipartisan issue. ‘ said Davids.

Goal: Meet the 2026 State of Minnesota benchmark of making high-speed Internet available to every home and business with download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second. While broadband funding from the federal government will help meet that goal, the 2026 goal may need to be pushed back a few years, Wells said.

“The federal government’s recognition came a little late and the dollars are being spent a little slower than we would hope,” Wells said. “The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act dollars, we don’t actually expect to be able to push that out until probably the second half of 2023 at the earliest.”

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