WILLMAR—Kandiyohi County residents in search of rural broadband service have a new option: wireless.
LTD Broadband spent the summer months building broadcast tower sites across the county and is now offering high-speed internet to rural homes and businesses.
So far, 31 towers have been built, with seven more scheduled for completion this fall.
When completed, nearly every rural location in the county will have wireless access to broadband with speeds up to 25 megabits per second, the company said in a news release. Business-dedicated connections will be available at up to 500 Mbps. The company offers plans capable of streaming high-definition video with unlimited data for $30 a month.
LTD Broadband is the nation’s fifth-largest, fixed-wireless WISP, or wireless internet service provider. Fixed wireless involves a small antenna mounted on a home or business that faces a broadcast tower. As of September, the company had more than 750 broadcast tower sites in rural Minnesota and Iowa.
Speeds and latencies are equivalent to cable or fiber broadband, said Corey Hauer, company owner.
The company hopes to make affordable high-speed internet available to anyone in Kandiyohi County who wants it, he said. “Living in a rural location, at least in Kandiyohi County, no longer means bad, data-limited, expensive or simply unavailable internet,” he said.
The economics and reliability of fixed wireless make it especially well-suited for rural internet, Hauer said. “Fixed-wireless is affordable for us to deploy as an internet service provider, which means we can provide service at a very reasonable cost to our customers.”
Almost all of the broadcast towers are constructed on existing buildings or grain structures that exceed certain height requirements. That’s one of the reasons the 31 new towers in Kandiyohi County were erected in such a short time, said Hauer.
The service is expected to fill a well-documented gap in broadband availability in rural Kandiyohi County.
Kandiyohi County officials had hoped to meet some of the need with a $4.9 million border-to-border grant from the Minnesota Office of Broadband Technology. The project, in partnership with Consolidated Telecommunication Co. of Baxter, would have brought fiber lines to 1,600 homes and businesses in rural north-central Kandiyohi County.
The project fell apart this past summer, however, when not enough customers signed up and made deposits to make it financially viable for Consolidated Telecommunication.
The failure of the project “doesn’t mean people don’t want or need broadband,” Hauer said. Once it became clear that Consolidated Telecommunication was going to pull out of the project, LTD Broadband focused its most recent tower construction specifically on covering as much of the project area as it could, he said.
LTD Broadband has a website and email link at www.ltdbroadband.net. The company also can be contacted by calling 507-369-6669.
West Central Tribune by Anne Polta