Tyler acquires added city-wide broadband access

TYLER — An expansion of broadband Internet possibilities in Tyler is scheduled to take place this year.

The community will be offered city-wide broadband service through Woodstock Communications. It will become part of the company’s efforts to use 21st century fiberoptics and wireless networking on behalf of rural southwest Minnesota communities.

Woodstock Communications General Manager Terry Nelson said the concept of city-wide service for Tyler has been on the drawing board for the past several years.

The upcoming project will resemble existing city-wide Woodstock networks in Westbrook and Balaton. They are one component of an expansion process that has also included targeted broadband service to schools, hospitals and other organizations.

“We’d been looking at the idea of city-wide broadband in Tyler,” Nelson said. “It’s close to our traditional service area and it’s a good-sized market. We also considered the interest from potential customers. By working with fiberoptic service to the school and hospital, we’d heard from Tyler residents who are interested in more broadband options.”

Woodstock will become the third provider to offer Internet plans to Tyler residents. The others are Frontier Communications and Mediacom, both of which rank in the top 10 of all providers in terms of total nationwide subscriptions.

Woodstock Communications was originally established during the 1910s by Woodstock Farmers Mutual. Its phone network began about 40 years after Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone invention.

In return for being able to communicate with each other by phone; Woodstock area farmers invested $25, two days of labor, and a team of horses to transport poles to installation sites by the wagonload.

Their switchboard was operated almost entirely by volunteers for about 40 years. It grew slowly until the late 1940s, when it had about 100 members.

A Rural Electrification Administration grant led to automatic dialing for Woodstock in 1954. Other communities were soon added to the system. It encompassed the Garvin area by 1957, Ruthton in 1959, and then Russell and Holland in 1962. The Ruthton project became Minnesota’s first buried cable installation, according to the Woodstock Communications website.

“We began as a small rural telephone exchange,” Nelson said. “Now we’re playing the same kind of role with Internet service. To stay in business, we’ve had to make cellular and Internet communication an important part of our strategic planning.”

Frontier began in 1930s as a Minnesota company based in Minneapolis. Interest from out-of-state investors after World War II propelled the company toward a nationwide expansion.

Frontier is now headquartered in Norwalk Conn., with marketing efforts that include naming rights to Frontier Field in Rochester, N.Y., and title sponsorship of the Connecticut Sun Women’s National Basketball Association team.

Both Frontier and Mediacom have conducted business with Verizon and Century Link, two out of three companies with histories connected to regional Baby Bells (formed after the U.S. Department of Justice ordered the breakup of American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T) in 1984.

Century Link started with humble 1930s beginnings in Monroe, La., where its first switchboard was located in the parlor of its second owner who gave away ownership of the company to his son as a wedding gift.

About 75 years later, a much larger modern-day Century Link gained its Baby Bell lineage through its acquisition of Qwest announced in 2010. The Qwest Corporation was previously named U.S. West (the Baby Bell for much of the western United States).

Recent expansion of large Internet providers corresponds to a vast increase in the nationwide customer base. The share of U.S. households with home based Internet climbed from about 43 percent in 2000 to 75 percent in 2015, according to statistics found as part of a Google search.

Woodstock Communications plans to install infrastructure for Tyler city-wide broadband during 2019, with a service start-up scheduled to begin in December.

Nelson said the process will not require any traffic adjustments on Tyler’s city streets.

Tyler City Administrator Robert Wolfington said local Internet customers stand to benefit from having three broadband options rather than two.

“They all market high speed services,” Wolfington said. “It comes down to what customers define as high speed and how much money they want to spend. Having Woodstock will lead to another choice.”

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