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Groundbreaking kicks off new broadband project

Darren Kalvig (from left), John Hay, Keith Stubbe, Darell Nissen, Colleen Landkamer, John Bessler, Ken Temple and Dan Olsen gear up to break ground for the Southwest Minnesota Broadband Services Operation Center Friday in Lakefield. (Ana Anthony/Daily Globe)

LAKEFIELD -- Humidity and intermittent showers did not deter a group from gathering at Southwest Minnesota Broadband Services (SWMBS) Operations Center Friday afternoon for a groundbreaking ceremony.

After much anticipation, construction will kick off Monday for fiber-optic cables, which will provide high-speed Internet to eight surrounding communities: Jackson, Lakefield, Round Lake, Bingham Lake, Brewster, Wilder, Heron Lake and Okabena.

"Broadband Internet levels out the playing field across the nation, the world," said Colleen Landkamer of U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, during the ceremony.

High-speed Internet will indeed be a benefit to all in the area, from agriculture workers to students.

"It's not your grandpa's farm anymore and farmers have extremely high-tech businesses where they deal with everyone over the Internet," said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, through a telephone speech.

Keith Stubbe, SWMBS chair, added that the service will greatly help students. "We're going to give them the best service and the best connectivity," he said.

In March 2009, discussion surfaced about bringing broadband Internet to the eight cities. Discussion among the consortium of communities led to the creation of SWMBS.

According to consultant firm U-reka Broadband Ventures principal, John Schultz, the project will encompass 3,700 homes and businesses.

From discussions to applications, and finally receiving $12.7 million from U.S. Department of Agriculture, SWMBS has progressed substantially.

"It's been a very long, arduous process for us," Schultz said. "We're just this consortium of cities. Other than our partner, Windom, we haven't been in this business before."

Windomnet, in Windom has been a key partner in the collaboration because of prior experience.

"They've been down this path before," Schultz said.

"Our goal is to turn up our first customer right around Nov. 1," he added. The project is expected to be completed by mid-July 2012.

Communities will soon be able to enjoy a maximum internet speed of 60 Mbps/40 Mbps for $99. In addition to Internet, services will include phone and cable television in various pricing packages. Complete price information is available at city offices of the communities receiving service, the operations center in Lakefield, and on