Loan-grant combination to connect households in rural Iowa
Cresco, IA | Rushford, MN (11 a.m. Oct. 21, 2020)— U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue announced Harmony Telephone Company as a recipient of a Reconnect Program award totaling $9.7 million.
MiEnergy Cooperative, an electric distribution cooperative serving southeastern Minnesota and northeastern Iowa, is an owner of Harmony Telephone Company along with two telephone cooperatives, Mabel Cooperative Telephone Company and Spring Grove Communications.
“The need for rural broadband has never been more apparent than it is now – as our nation manages the coronavirus national emergency. Access to telehealth services, remote learning for school children, and remote business operations all require access to broadband,” Perdue said. “I am so proud of our rural communities who have been working day in and day out, just like they always do, producing the food and fiber America depends on. We need them more than ever during these trying times, and expanding access to this critical infrastructure will help ensure rural America prospers for years to come.”
Harmony Telephone Company will use a $4.8 million ReConnect grant and a $4.8 million ReConnect loan to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network, which will connect 1,579 people, 96 farms and 31 businesses to high-speed broadband internet in Howard and Chickasaw counties in Iowa.
“The pandemic has shown us that access to high-speed broadband in rural areas is just as critical and essential as access to electricity was in the 1930s,” said MiEnergy President/CEO Brian Krambeer. “This award will create life-changing opportunities for our rural members, allowing them to have the speeds necessary for working and learning from home.”
Krambeer says a lack of access to broadband in rural areas within the electric co-op’s service territory and requests by its members to look for a solution led MiEnergy to enter a partnership with Mabel Cooperative Telephone Company and Spring Grove Communications in 2018.
The partnership added MiEnergy as an owner of Harmony Telephone, a privately-held company that provides broadband and telephone service to the city of Harmony, Minn. and surrounding area, as well as, cable TV service to Harmony. It was originally purchased by Mabel Cooperative and Spring Grove Communications in 2006.
The partnership by the three cooperatives also led to the launch of a new business in 2018, MiBroadband, which provides fixed, wireless broadband to rural areas of MiEnergy’s service territory.