Sibley County Fiber/Pro

To the editor:

My name is Mark Erickson. I am the Winthrop City Administrator and EDA Director. For the past four years I have worked with the RS Fiber Joint Powers Board and the RS Fiber Cooperative on the fiber to the home and farm network project in Sibley and Renville Counties.

It is not very often people have an opportunity to individually and collectively make positive changes in their lives. Too often people find themselves the tail of the dog, so to speak, unable to do much about their circumstances.

The RS Fiber Cooperative project represents a real opportunity to affect positive change in your life and the lives of your children. Let me explain.

Through the vision and hard work of hundreds of people during the past three years you have an opportunity to show your support for a project that will benefit nearly every person and business in the area.

Like electricity nearly 100 years ago, fiber to the home technology has the power to transform the way you live, work, learn and play.

But don’t take my word for it. Ask Google and the 37 cities they are working with to build fiber to the home networks. Or ask the people and businesses located in the 135 community initiated fiber to the home projects that are operating successfully today. Or ask the thousands of farm families hooked up to the 10,000 square mile fiber to the farm network that is operated by cooperatives in North Dakota.

How fast and reliable your connection to the Internet is today is in direct relation to the benefit you are able to receive in your home or business. Those people living in rural areas with slow Internet connections know what I’m talking about.

Phone and cable companies generally do a good job providing services. The problem is they rely on connections to your home made of copper. Those copper connections have limitations. In fact, those copper connections represent yesterday’s technology.

Like the tractor was to the horse, fiber optics networks are to copper networks. One just replaces the other. And while you can still plow your field with a horse, almost everyone chooses to use tractors.

It’s the same with your Internet connection. You might be able to get by with a 5 or 10 megabit Internet connection today, but sometime in the near future you, your children or your business are going to need a 50 or 100 megabit symmetrical connection to take full advantage of the benefits the Internet offers. Unfortunately, copper and wireless networks are unable meet those needs. For rural residents, copper networks just can’t reach that far.

Why suffer the “spinning dial of death,” as many rural people call the rotating icon on their computer screen as they wait for something to load, when you have an opportunity to get hooked up to an incredibly fast fiber optic connection?

The goal of the RS Fiber Cooperative is to connect every home and business in the project area to a future proof fiber optic network.

When the fiber network is constructed there will be new opportunities for our children to learn, our senior citizens to live in their homes longer, our businesses to reach out to customers, our farmers to innovate and our governments to provide more efficient services to their constituents. And that’s with the software applications we have today. Tomorrow’s innovation promises even greater benefit, but only if your home or business is connected to a fiber optic network.

Unfortunately the RS Fiber Cooperative network cannot be built without a certain element of risk. But if we want to change our lives for the better we need to be willing to “have some skin in the game.”

The 10 cities in the project area (Brownton, Buffalo Lake, Fairfax, Gaylord, Gibbon, Green Isle, Lafayette, New Auburn, Stewart and Winthrop) have asked the boards of supervisors of 21 townships in the project area (17 in Sibley County and four in Renville County) to partner with them and provide a $15 million economic development loan to the RS Fiber Cooperative to help them attract additional financing to build and operate the fiber network.

There is risk in the project but, in my opinion, that risk is not just small, it is miniscule when compared to the tremendous benefit the fiber network can bring to our area.

I would ask all of you to take a few moments and learn more about the RS Fiber Cooperative project. Go to the website at www.rsfiber.coop for more information or to submit a pledge card. Or check us out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/rsfiber.

Attend one of the public meetings about the project. Ask questions. State your opinions. Whether you are for or against the project, you should be part of the conversation.

I have a saying on a wall in my office that I look at every day. It says that change cannot be made without inconvenience, even when that change is from worse to better.

We have an opportunity to make our lives, and the lives of our children and grandchildren, better but it can’t happen without the inconvenience of putting ourselves at some degree of risk.

Mark Erickson

City Administrator

City of Winthrop

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