MTA News Bytes

February 5, 2016

In This Issue

Meetings and Events

MTA Updates

Action Items

>> 2016 MTA Legislative Session Preview (Webinar)

>>The 2016 MTA Convention Is Fast Approaching. It's Time to Register!

>> 2016 CSR Spring Conference

Informational Items

>> FCC Releases 2016 Broadband Progress Report

>> Oral Argument Set in Municipal Broadband Appeal

>> Join Us at the 2016 Broadband Conference

Peer Group Bulletin

>> MTA Peer Group 2015 Investment Opportunities

Economic Development Corner

>> Finding Grants and Securing Donations: A Success Story

Safety Corner

>> Safety Bytes

People and Companies

>> Arvig Names New Director of IT

>> CNS Launches First Rural 100 Gigabit Data Transport Service

>> Duane Wentland to Retire from Benton Communications

>> Minnesota Lt. Governor Tina Smith Visits Paul Bunyan Communications

MTA Staff

MTA President/CEO:
Brent Christensen
Team Leader:

Jacquie Durant
Event Planners:
Julie Cygan
Carissa Wolf
Member Services:
Jeanne DeMartino
Anna Wrisky
Administrative Assistant:
Anne Christensen

Stay up-to-date on daily happenings at the MTA offices by following us on Facebook. From peer group meetings to annual conferences and everything in between, get the scoop on what’s happening at our offices!




Meetings and Events

Feb. 18, 2016: Broadband Conference

March 2, 2016: 2016 MTA Legislative Session Preview (Webinar)

Peer Group Investment Opportunities Open for 2016. View Details

March 21-23, 2016: MTA Annual Convention and Trade Show

April 19-20, 2016: CSR Spring Conference

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MTA Updates


2016 MTA Legislative Session Preview (Webinar)

Register Today

Wednesday, March 2, 2016
10 - 11 a.m.

View Details and Register Online

Join us for a Webinar: 2016 MTA Legislative Session Preview

The 2016 Legislative Session begins March 8, 2016. This is a very short session with the complication of having the Capitol closed. Here is your opportunity to get a preview of legislative issues affecting telecom and learn the status of MTA sponsored bills. You will also get a brief description of the process bills have to follow to become law in Minnesota.

Presented by:

  • Brent J. Christensen, President/CEO of the Minnesota Telecom Alliance
  • Mike Ahern

Cost: FREE


MTA Annual Convention and Trade Show

The 2016 MTA Convention is fast approaching.
It's time to get registered!

Register Today

March 21-23, 2016
Hyatt Regency Minneapolis
1300 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN

Be sure to register by going to and completing the online form. Don’t miss your early bird registration discount — sign up before February 26, 2016.

Don't miss the action. Register Now

Sponsor and/or Exhibit at the 2016 Annual Convention

Take advantage of this unique opportunity to meet and network with more than 1,100 professionals from throughout the Upper Midwest. Register to exhibit at the 2016 Annual Convention today! It is a "do-not-miss" opportunity to showcase your company, products and services.

Download the Exhibitor and Sponsor Prospectus | Register Online to Sponsor or Exhibit

Plan to join us on March 21-23, 2016 at the Hyatt Regency in Minneapolis. The MTA Annual Convention continues to be the largest state telecommunications association convention in the nation. It represents the interests of more than 80 small, medium and large telecommunications providers that provide advanced telecommunications services like voice, data, wireless video, and high-speed Internet access to Minnesota’s metropolitan and rural communities.

Register for your booth space today!

The convention is a great way to get your message out to this group and the support of our exhibitors and sponsors is what makes this convention possible. Consider becoming a keystone of our pinnacle event! Multiple levels of conference sponsorship opportunities are available.

Interested in demoing your products and services live to the Convention attendees? Consider upgrading your sponsorship to a Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum Sponsorship! The vendor demo area will be located in the middle of the MTA Exhibit Hall. It's an opportunity you don’t want to miss.

If you have questions about the exhibitor or sponsorship information, please contact Carissa Wolf at the MTA office at or (651) 265-7849.

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2016 CSR Spring Conference

April 19-20, 2016
Arrowwood Resort & Conference Center
Alexandria, MN

View details and register online

MTA is excited to announce the upcoming Customer Service Peer Group Conference, to be held April 19-20 at Arrowwood Resort & Conference Center in Alexandria, MN. This event is for any and all individuals who deal with customers in the telecommunication industry. The conference is a great opportunity to attend (or send your staff) for very little cost.

More information will be provided as the conference approaches.


MTA Member: $125
Non-member: $150


Arrowwood Resort
Phone: 320-762-1124
Block of rooms reserved under MTA Customer Service Conference.

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FCC Releases 2016 Broadband Progress Report

(from NECA’s Washington Watch)

The FCC released the 2016 Broadband Progress Report on January 29, 2016, finding broadband is not being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion. The report concludes that a persistent digital divide has left approximately 40 percent of people living in rural areas and on Tribal Lands without access to broadband service at the FCC’s speed benchmark, and found that many schools, particularly those in rural areas, continue to lack access to advanced telecommunications capabilities necessary to meet the goals the FCC established for the E-rate program. The FCC retained its existing speed benchmark of 25 Mbps/3 Mbps for fixed services, but found that the current record is insufficient to set an appropriate speed benchmark for mobile service.

Oral Argument Set in Municipal Broadband Appeal

(from NECA’s Washington Watch)

The Sixth Circuit Court issued a Notice on January 28, 2016, announcing oral argument will be March 17, 2016, for the case reviewing the State of North Carolina’s and the State of Tennessee’s Petitions for Review of the FCC’s March 12, 2015 Order that preempted certain state laws restricting municipal provision of broadband service. The time allotted for oral argument is 15 minutes to be shared by petitioners and intervenors, and 15 minutes to be shared by respondents and intervenors.

MTA and MCCA Invite You to Join Us at the 2016 Broadband Conference

Register Today

2016 Broad Band Conference Logo

Minnesota’s Broadband Networks – Backbone of the 21st Century!

February 18, 2016 • 7:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
317 on Rice Park, St. Paul

Presented by:

Minnesota Telecom Alliance
Minnesota Cable Communications Association
Minnesota Cellular Providers – AT&T/Verizon

For the second year in a row, the Minnesota Cable Communications Association and the Minnesota Telecom Alliance with partner companies are hosting a policy conference in Minnesota — Broadband Networks, the Backbone of the 21st Century!

The purpose of our event is to bring together policy makers, providers and community leaders interested in fostering the advancement of broadband networks in Minnesota.

The conference will be held in St. Paul on February 18, 2016 at 317 on Rice Park, 7:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. This is the premier broadband conference of the year.

Here is a list of those invited and or already committed to participate as a speaker or panelist.

I hope you will join us. Last year we sold out with over 120 leaders in attendance. We were pleased the conference received very positive feedback from this wide range of stakeholders.

View the full agenda and register today!

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Peer Group Bulletin
All MTA members are welcome to join a Peer Group

MTA Peer Group 2016 Investment Opportunities Open!

MTA’s core purpose is to enhance the success and viability of its telecommunications industry members. You are an important part of helping us fulfill this mission. Here is your opportunity to maximize the impact of your event sponsorships for 2016.

Download the 2016 Peer Group Investment Opportunities for full details

Sponsor a Peer Group: Sign Up Online!

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Economic Development Corner

Finding Grants and Securing Donations: A Success Story

In response to our request for MTA member economic development stories, Emily Telephone has submitted this great story.

“Emily Co-operative Telephone Company (ECTC) held an annual strategic planning meeting last winter. In attendance was a development professional who led us through a very productive meeting. The ECTC board and management came away with four goals. At the top of the list was to increase the economic viability of our region. Emily, Fifty Lakes, Fairfield Township, and Little Pine Township, along with Outing (Crooked Lake Township) are the communities in this region and assist in keeping our company a viable business in this area. ECTC is one of the biggest employers in the region and our goal is to be available to our members and a strong local service provider to our rural communities, as opposed to bigger companies.

Area grant foundations were invited to ECTC board meetings and provided very useful information. A small group of community volunteers organized an initial public meeting, inviting local communities, publicized in the local newspapers, word of mouth, along with stopping at local businesses. A small starter group of interested volunteers conducted the meeting. There was a sign-up sheet requesting contact information for residents who were interested in being part of the committee, as assistance was needed with the grant writing process and carrying out the proposed ideas for economic development efforts.

Five volunteers assisted with the grant writing process, three more public meetings were held, one with Merritt Bussiere, detailing homeowners and the demographics in our region; Ben Winchester on Brain Gain and the population growth in rural Minnesota; and an asset mapping meeting, to list our local amenities and needs. Volunteers visited cities and township meetings to discuss the project as well as the local chamber and Lion clubs. A commitment was needed from all city councils and townships willing to accept grant moneys. One of the communities was tasked with being the fiscal agent for the committee. During the entire process, the idea was to involve all area communities in the economic development efforts, obtaining local input and support to benefit all five communities, without excluding anyone from participating in these efforts.

Volunteers distributed surveys asking for input and had prizes for those who completed the informational survey. Forming a community website is also in progress.

We were awarded a grant from the IRRRB ($20,000), secured donations from the five local entities ($5,000) and will receive training, meeting facilitation and technical assistance from the Initiative Foundation through a grant they received through a USDA Rural Development Initiative (valued at $25,000). We held a meeting with the Initiative Foundation to set dates to begin the formal start of our participation in the foundation's Thriving Communities Initiative (TCI) program. This program will work with our local communities to develop a common vision, identify key goals, develop action plans and then implement those plans.

Our Mission Statement:
GoNorth promotes sustainable, fulfilling, prosperous & healthy living for residents, businesses and visitors in our five rural Minnesota Lake Communities.

To share your economic development story, email MTA President/CEO Brent Christensen at

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Safety Corner

The New Year Has Already Brought Some Exciting Changes to the MTA Safety Program

The first change has been the addition of our third consultant, Chris Swanson. Chris started with the MTA on January 15 and comes to us from Ewald Consulting where she worked in the MTA Membership Department, so she is very familiar with all of your companies. She hit the ground running by attending a Blood Borne Pathogens Train-the-Trainer course at the Minnesota Safety Council and has been shadowing Dan and me the past two weeks to become familiar with our training process.  She will conduct her first class on February 8, so please give her a big welcome when she visits your company.

The second change with the program is that we continue to grow.  Since January 1, we have had three new companies join our safety program. Those companies are Valley Telecommunications in Herreid, SD; TrioTel in Salem, SD; and MidState Communications in Kimball, SD.

Without your patience and commitment for the safety program, we would not be able to continue to grow or be able to provide the services and training that we do. It’s great to know there are people out there who take safety seriously — not only at work, but away from the job too.

Thanks again!

Jeff Ulmen
Safety Consultant

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People Companies

Arvig Names New Director of IT

PERHAM, MINN., JAN. 25, 2016— Arvig, the area’s leading broadband provider, announced that Shaun Carlson has been promoted to Director of IT. Carlson is responsible for leading all IT operations and network engineering for the company. He will report to David Arvig, Vice President/COO.

“I’m pleased to announce Shaun’s promotion,” said Arvig. “He has a keen eye for detail and an extensive knowledge of IT, making him a very valuable member of our team. Throughout his time at Arvig, he’s helped us make huge strides as a company and has played a key role in streamlining some of our internal processes. I’m excited to see what he’ll bring to the table in this new position.”

With more than 15 years in the telecommunications industry, Carlson’s expertise includes a broad range of IP and TDM technologies, enterprise networking and systems design, telephony, server and desktop support, web and database software development, sales and customer support. He joined Arvig in 2011 as Senior Network Engineer, moved into the position of Network Engineering Manager in 2013 and was promoted to Senior Manager of Information Technology in late 2014.

Shaun holds a Bachelor of Science in Management Information Systems from North Dakota State University and an Executive Master's in Business Administration from the University of Mary.

About Arvig
Established in 1950, Arvig® has grown from a small, family-owned telephone company to one of the largest independent full-service telecommunications providers in the nation. Arvig provides telephone service to nearly 66,000 customers, Internet to more than 38,000 customers and has a service area that covers more than 9,000 square miles. In addition to traditional telecom services, Arvig also provides network cabling, security systems, answering services and a full suite of digital media services.

CNS Launches First Rural 100 Gigabit Data Transport Service

Recent Upgrades Provide Rural MN ISPs with World-Class Network Capacity

Cooperative Network Services (CNS) recently completed the required network upgrades to install its first 100 Gigabit service to a Minnesota Internet Service Provider.

The newly upgraded ROADM transport network, utilizing Cisco’s ONS platform, will deliver the bandwidth needed for the first of likely many MN ISPs and WISPs looking to upgrade their connection speeds for future high-bandwidth including the increases in providers who are now offering Gigabit services to business and residential customers.

“This 100Gb upgrade will allow us to provide the bandwidth required by MN ISPs and end-users as data transmission needs increase.” said Dean Bahls, CNS’ Network Services Manager. “We continue to see increases in Internet and dedicated circuit traffic resulting from growth in the video, mobile and cloud-based software and data backup/recover services.”

The network upgrade went smoothly, and 100 Gb wavelengths are now ready for commercial deployment throughout the CNS transport network footprint from Minneapolis and throughout Northern Minnesota.

“It’s exciting to cross the 100 Gb threshold as so many of the predictions about data usage are coming true. This 10Gb to 100Gb upgrade will be an important part of the advancement of emerging technologies like tele-health, distance learning, immersive entertainment, and the Internet of Things,” said Jason Dale, CNS’ CEO.

CNS’ transport network now covers over 1,100 route miles with 24 pops connecting multiple ISPs, wireless towers, data centers and end users to both Fargo and the 511 building in Minneapolis.

Covering some of the most rural parts of Minnesota, CNS connects hundreds of thousands of out-state users to the information they need each day.

Duane Wentland to Retire from Benton Communications

Duane Wentland, Operations Manager for Benton Communications (Rice, MN) began his employment at Benton Telephone in September 1980 and will retire on February 29, 2016. Benton Communications invites you to join us for cake and coffee at a Retirement Open House in his honor on Wednesday, February 24, 2016 from 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM at Benton Communications, 2220 125th St NW, Rice, MN.  Congratulations to Duane on his 36 years of dedicated service.

Minnesota Lt. Governor Tina Smith Visits Paul Bunyan Communications

(Bemidji, MN) (February 5, 2015) – Minnesota Lt. Governor Tina Smith visited the headquarters of Paul Bunyan Communications in Bemidji on Wednesday, February 3.  The Lt. Governor congratulated the cooperative’s staff on being a leader in bringing high quality broadband Internet service to northern Minnesota and for building one of the largest rural fiber optic Gigabit networks in the United States, the GigaZone.  She also discussed the State’s Border to Border Broadband Grant program which the Dayton administration has proposed $100 million in funding for 2016. 

The cooperative, in partnership with the IRRRB and Itasca County, was a recipient of a grant from the 2015 Border to Border Broadband Grant program which will fund nearly $2 million of the $5.5 million Central Itasca County Broadband Project..  Construction will begin in the spring and will bring broadband Internet service with download and upload speeds of up to 1 Gigabit per second along with PBTV and voice services to nearly 1,300 locations that currently lack broadband service.

“We are honored that Lt. Governor Smith took the time during her busy trip to Bemidji to stop at our cooperative and visit with our staff.  She along with Governor Dayton are strong proponents of bringing broadband access to all Minnesotan’s and we are very appreciative and supportive of their efforts.  There are far too many rural areas that remain without access to broadband.  We will continue to do what we can to bring it to as many in northern Minnesota as we can,” said Gary Johnson, Paul Bunyan Communications CEO/General Manager.

In addition to meeting with Paul Bunyan Communications staff, the Lt. Governor toured the cooperative’s facility.

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