News late last week from Midco and Land O’ Lakes illustrates how getting stakeholders to work together can bring broadband to areas where deployment costs are prohibitive.
Midco said it has deployed fixed wireless from three towers in rural areas near Trimont, Minnesota. According to the company, the deployment has the potential to serve 1,595 people who previously had no adequate internet connectivity available to them.
One of the three fixed wireless towers in the Trimont area project uses a “vertical asset” owned by Crystal Valley Co-operative, explained a Land O’ Lakes spokesperson in an email response to questions from Telecompetitor about the project. Crystal Valley is a farm supply and grain marketing company that is one of Land O’ Lakes many owners.
Midco traditionally was a cable provider focused on tier two and three markets, but recently has been quite aggressive in deploying fixed wireless and fiber broadband. The company relies in large part on CBRS spectrum and won funding to cover some deployment costs in both the Connect America Fund and Rural Digital Opportunity Fund rural broadband funding auctions.
Land O’ Lakes
Land O’ Lakes is best known for dairy products, but is now heavily involved in precision agriculture, which many see reaching its full potential only when adequate broadband is widely available in rural areas.
In 2020, Land O’ Lakes spearheaded the establishment of the American Connection Project Broadband Coalition (ACPBC) to advocate for investment in rural broadband. The coalition includes major businesses, associations and other entities willing to contribute their own resources to facilitate remote education, health and mental health services, job opportunities and more.
“Land O’ Lakes serves as the convener between the agricultural retail owners/ member owners, in this case Crystal Valley, . . and internet service providers, to successfully connect a community to the cloud,” the Land O’ Lakes spokesperson said of the Land O’ Lakes Midco project.
Also in 2020, Land O’ Lakes and Microsoft formed a multi-year strategic alliance aimed at pioneering new innovations in agriculture, enhancing the supply chain, expanding sustainability practices for farmers and the food system and closing the rural broadband gap.
As part of the agreement, the companies are launching broadband pilots that will combine Microsoft’s Airband project and specific locations within the Land O’ Lakes owner network and will include telehealth and educational resources. Airband is Microsoft’s initiative to bring broadband to unserved rural areas through partnerships with broadband providers, primarily through the use of fixed wireless technology.