Lakeland Communications Brings Fiber to Polk County
Monday, April 23, 2018
The availability of broadband is critical to economic growth. With broadband, Polk County can attract entrepreneurs, startups and larger companies who depend on their ability to instantly connect to the internet and conduct business remotely. Lakeland Communications understands the importance of broadband and has been actively working to place fiber since the 1990s after their board reached the important decision to begin laying fiber. Now, they are working on future-proofing their infrastructure to ensure that folks in Polk County will always have access to the fastest internet speeds. This includes laying 600 route miles of fiber optic cable, serving more than 6,000 households and businesses in Frederic, Luck, Cushing, Milltown, Balsam Lake, Centuria, St. Croix Falls and Osceola. To learn more about their efforts and renewed focus expanding broadband in Polk County, we interviewed John Klatt, President & CEO of Lakeland Communications.
PC: What was the inspiration for the broadband initiative?
JK: We want Lakeland to be a leader and be ahead of the curve. We want our customers to experience the best in telecommunications and broadband while being able to attract economic growth to our area.
PC: Why has it been launched in Polk County?
JK: As the incumbent provider we felt an obligation to not only provide DSL or cable modem broadband but to go another step further that will provide a great value in the future. This is why we are focused on being a high quality provider via FTTP (fiber to the premise).
PC: What has the process been from idea to implementation?
JK: We started in early 1990’s by placing our first fiber core routes and evolved to a fiber to node project using past copper telephone lines to provide DSL from strategic placed nodes in the field. That gave way to fiber optics to the premise in Luck and Milltown. We have been fiberizing our sparse rural portions of our incumbent service area since 2011. We look to complete the fiber placement in these areas with testing and cutover to an all fiber network in 2020.
PC: What will the overall impact on the community be once the project is complete?
JK: Already, the broadband initiative has had an economic purchase impact in our communities. A big effect is an increase in home or business valuation, as it is reported that there is a 3.1 % increase in property value for having access to a fiber optic network. (source-FTTH Council). That could be $ 6,200.00 dollars on a $200,000 home.
The impact of a fiber optic infrastructure is far-reaching in Polk County. We now have the bandwidth and speed required to allow our schools to provide for broadband initiatives so students have access to the equipment and the broadband needed for education. We have provided the much needed expertise and broadband to allow for telemedicine with our local medical facilities. Businesses have the access required to bring their vendors, customers and other offices together seamlessly. One of the greatest impacts has been on customers who were commuting to the Twin Cities for work. Now, our customers enjoy the luxury of working from home and having the needed bandwidth to do it. Whether they need to download/upload large files, video conference or connect to their businesses securely, Lakeland can make that happen. Lakeland looks forward to growing this area, using fiber availability to help new business come in and current businesses to excel and hopefully grow the workplace and job market.
PC: What has the impact been thus far?
JK: We have had businesses buy ethernet connections that span across the nation connecting to others. We have had realtors contact us wanting to know where our service is because that impacts the real estate market. We have anchor institutions benefiting at schools and libraries via statewide networks with any amount of bandwidth they want to consume. Even healthcare access has improved as telemedicine is happening by our local hospital connecting to area clinics.
A Caring Community Partner
Lakeland Communications views their investment in broadband as an investment in the future of Polk County. They are committed to being a corporate caring partner and are using their success to help promote economic development, beyond bringing broadband to community members. They recently implemented a Lakeland Economic Development Grant program. This program is designed to help new or existing businesses create jobs that will in turn generate tax revenue to help with infrastructure projects in the community and may also bring more children into the local school system. Lakeland believes that their long term business prospects are only as strong as the local community and they seek to make a difference whenever possible in order to strengthen the community. As John said, “We really hope that at some point we have provided a value that our customers and the people of greater Polk County can utilize and appreciate. We want to make a difference. We bring a unique opportunity to our area as a independent , locally owned and operated company.”
To learn more about Lakeland Communications, the broadband initiative, or the Lakeland Economic Development Grant contact Sheri Thorsbakken or John Klatt.