GigFire expanding fiber network into Albert Lea
Published 9:00 pm Tuesday, May 16, 2023
A new internet provider is coming to the Albert Lea area: GigFire (formerly LTD Broadband), which is bringing a 7,800 passing fiber network.
According to Corey Hauer, CEO of the company, fiber optic networks were “effectively glass” and a reliable way to move high-speed internet data.
He also compared fiber networks to cable networks.
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“Cable internet is more susceptible to performance degradation and slower speeds compared to fiber optic internet,” Hauer said.
Cable and DSL networks also can have limited upload speeds.
“If you think of a freeway, think of a 100-lane freeway versus a two-lane freeway,” he said. “It’s just a lot more capacity. You can put a lot more cars on the road.”
Hauer thought there was high demand for reliable broadband. He also believed with the rise in work-from-home jobs, which allowed employees to move to smaller towns, the necessity of great internet service was critical.
And with fiber’s longevity, the same material can be used for 50 years without becoming obsolete. So while the electronics connected to the glass may, at some time, need an upgrade, the company won’t have to tear up streets.
He said people were dissatisfied with their internet options in Albert Lea, while Hauer and the company had been thinking about providing a fiber network for a year, with Albert Lea “floating to the top.”
“We actually have been building a lot of these smaller towns in Freeborn and Mower counties for the last year and a half, and we’ve completed just about every single small town,” said Justin Hansen, director of outside plant.
Within those counties, GigFire has built fiber optic networks in Elkton, Dexter, Glenville, Myrtle, Freeborn, Geneva, Hollandale, Maple Island, Emmons, Conger, Oakland, Brownsdale and Hayward. Alden is nearing completion.
“In the past it’s sort of been a have and have-not scenario where if you live in town you have good internet and if you live out in the country you have not as good internet,” Hauer said. “We really want to see equality of internet, we want everybody to have great internet.”
He was also proud of the team and the work they’ve accomplished.
Construction on the network started in February, and on May 1 the company started their fiber optic network in Albert Lea, and they’ve been working to build the mainline in Albert Lea. Their hope is to finish the project at some point in early fall, with roughly half the work already completed. When completed, the network will cover 90 to 95% of Albert Lea within their aerial-capable network.
It’s his hope that because the company is based in Clarks Grove people will choose GigFire for internet.
“We’re making investments in the community and we’re here to stay and keep making additional investments in other areas that are nearby,” Hauer said.
Hauer declined to give an exact amount to the cost, but admitted it would be “millions,” but noted the company would not be raising rates or seeking government subsidies.
According to Hansen, response to GigFire has been positive, and the company had already made a number of pre-sales within the last few weeks. Their hope is to finish the first 30% of the project soon.
GigFire is based in Clarks Grove and has been building fiber networks for a few years and also provides gigabit wireless service.
Currently the company operates in nine states and has 60,000 square miles within the rural Midwest: Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Missouri and Tennessee with plans to expand to Illinois in the coming weeks. Their primary focus is small towns and rural areas.
“I think there’s a load of companies that are focused on bigger towns and more city-focused,” Hauer said. “For the last 14 years we’ve really focused on what we find to be under-served areas, so areas that haven’t really had great broadband options before.”
Call GigFire at 507-369-6669 or visit their website at gigfire.com for any questions. Email inquiries can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.