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Fiber optic network moves through Brainerd

Construction of 428 miles of fiber optic network for a Greater Minnesota Broadband Collaborative Project rolled into the Brainerd area this week.

The work is part of a network designed to link 36 outstate Minnesota communities in 23 counties. The $24 million network is funding in part by $16.3 million from a National Telecommunications and Information Administration grant with money from the American Recovery Act and a $7.2 million investment from Enventis, a subsidiary of Mankato-based HickoryTech.

The “network will deliver a minimum of 100 MB broadband Ethernet services to 80 community anchor institutions. More than 886,000 people living in 315,000 households will have access to these low-cost, high-capacity broadband services including more than 74,000 small and medium businesses in Minnesota,” Eventis reported.

The new fiber optic lines connect Minneapolis and St. Paul to Duluth and Superior, Wis. as well as linking Brainerd to Fargo N.D. and Moorhead. The three-year project began in July 2011. Construction is slated to be completed this fall with activation in the first quarter of 2013. The fiber optic network is going through Staples and Wadena and Detroit Lakes as it connects Brainerd to Moorhead.

Partners in the project include the Mayo Clinic, University of Minnesota Office of Information Technology and the Minnesota Office of Enterprise Technology, which are expected to directly benefit from the network.

Based in Duluth, Greg Flanagan, director of business development and wholesale service at Enventis, described the statewide network as a middle-mile project.

It is designed to connect major institutions like health care, education, libraries, and government — such as courts and public safety — throughout the state.

Flanagan said Enventis, a provider of high-capacity fiber and data services, doesn’t support residential use itself as it is a business-to-business provider. But in creating the network, it provides opportunities for Internet service providers to access the fiber optic network to expand residential services.

“We are not looking at directly supporting the residential community.”

But he added the network enables other providers to reach further, such as the Enventis network in Duluth, St. Cloud or Owatonna.

Flanagan said Enventis works with Internet service providers such as cable television companies and with medical and legal, financial or government organizations.

With the fiber network spanning cities across the state, Flanagan said it can specifically support organizations with multiple outlets in several cities, such as health care entities or third party Internet or cable franchises seeking to reach more customer areas.

“We are seeing some of those approach us because we fit into their model to serve the end consumer,” Flanagan said.

A key project highlight is identified by Enventis as providing “access to affordable, high-capacity broadband services in rural communities and create new jobs.”

The work through Brainerd is the latter part of the project that started in Moorhead. Flanagan said they need to complete the entire span to provide the service. Essentia Health, which has facilities from Duluth to Fargo, N.D. and in Brainerd, is a good example of an organization able to capitalize on the fiber to internally connect those communities, Flanagan said.

“We bring traffic into and out of Brainerd,” Flanagan said.

Enventis is adding the new fiber to its more than 3,250-mile network.

RENEE RICHARDSON, senior reporter, may be reached at 855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
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