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Wireless internet company keeps the most rural residents connected in southwest Minnesota

Federal and state funds are helping bring fiber optic cable for broadband to ever more rural locations, but an established wireless provider sees a continued and growing role to play.

MVTV Wireless Internet serves rural members in a 27-county area of Southwest Minnesota and in adjacent portions of South Dakota and Iowa.
MVTV Wireless Internet serves rural members in a 27-county area of Southwest Minnesota and in adjacent portions of South Dakota and Iowa.
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GRANITE FALLS — While millions of dollars in federal and state grants are helping bring fiber optic cable for broadband service to ever more rural locations, a wireless internet provider serving them remains confident of its future.

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MVTV Wireless
MVTV Wireless logo
Stock photo / MVTV Wireless

MVTV Wireless Internet has continued to grow its customer base ever since it began offering wireless internet service in 1999. It anticipates seeing continued, albeit slow, growth as it continues to reinvest in equipment and new technology to remain a state-of-the-art provider, representatives of the company told the Yellow Medicine County Board of Commissioners on Dec. 27.

Tim Johnson, operations manager, told the commissioners that the company continues to add new members. “(We’re) not growing by leaps and bounds, but (we) are growing hundreds of customers every year,” he said.

Johnson and Pam Rosenau, the company’s marketing director, said MVTV continues to serve and add customers in some rural areas where new fiber optic cable has been installed for broadband services. Costs remain an important factor for customers deciding to link to fiber optic, and some rural areas are seeing new residential development after fiber was installed to existing sites, they pointed out.

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Pam Rosenau
Pam Rosenau
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MVTV is a nonprofit organization owned by its members who subscribe to its wireless internet services. Headquartered in Granite Falls, its licensed, basic trade area includes Yellow Medicine, Chippewa, Renville, Lincoln and Lyon counties. It is the dominant rural provider in this area, with 25 to 30% of the rural households, according to Johnson.

Its overall reach is far larger. It serves rural customers dispersed among 27 counties in southwestern Minnesota as well as in bordering areas of South Dakota and Iowa.

The Minnesota Valley Television Improvement Association began in 1960 to rebroadcast Twin Cities television stations on UHF channels. It reached more than 2,500 homes with antenna-based TV. It ended its UHF television service in 2020.

Rosenau said MVTV has grown from a one-employee, one-tower operation with the start of its internet service in 1999 to a network with 198 towers and 21 employees today. It serves a customer base of more than 7,000.

During his presentation to the county board, Johnson outlined efforts by the company to continue to increase the available capacity on the system for subscribers. It is looking at options for next-generation services, and waiting for decisions by the Federal Communications Commission on licensing for the frequencies needed.

Tim Johnson
Tim Johnson
Contributed

Johnson described the company’s system as a hybrid. Fiber optic cable provides the backbone of the system, linking the towers that provide wireless service to customers.

Along with continuing to provide internet services, the company is interested in growing its management services for rural customers. Farm customers are increasingly relying on internet connectivity for everything — from security cameras and devices that monitor grain bins to IT equipment that are part of their tractors and field equipment. Johnson said whether those farmers are MVTV customers or not, the company has the expertise to help them manage their separate on-farm networks.

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Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoors reporter for the West Central Tribune.
He has been a reporter with the West Central Tribune since 1993.

Cherveny can be reached via email at tcherveny@wctrib.com or by phone at 320-214-4335.
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