Rural Minnesota broadband project leverages towers to connect residents

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Broadband internet access and speeds will increase for homes and businesses in and around Madelia, Minnesota thanks to a collaboration by the companies Midco, Crystal Valley Cooperative, and Land O’Lakes. Land O’Lakes and Crystal Valley helped Midco in finding locations to place infrastructure. Rather than laying a lot of new fiber lines to homes and far-flung farm sites, the project uses a system of towers and antennas to get high-bandwidth signals to customers. “The Madelia project is a bit unique, it is a hub site,” said Ben Dold senior VP of operations for Midco. “We were able to put a tower up at Madelia and that tower brings wireless internet connectivity to a bunch of other towers and allows us to beam that high quality, high bandwidth signals to the spoke towers. Then we put up antennas to homes to provide the signal,” he said. Dold added that it's a cost-effective and quick way to get broadband out without putting fiber to every home along the way. The project cost $112,000 and Midco received $67,000 in federal funding from the Federal Communications Commission's Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. The system has 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload speeds. The service costs $100 per month with the first six months free. The Madelia project and others they have done or are doing is the result of federal funding via projects they won in a “reverse auction," where companies bid on projects and describe what they will deliver, the total estimated cost of the project, and the matching funding they will put in. 

New rural broadband project uses towers