Stepping Into the GigaZone – A Committment to Local Economic Development


Helping with economic development for the communities they serve is part of Paul Bunyan Communications’ mission statement. Economic development is one of the motivations for PBC’s restructuring of its offering to one that is centered around an all-fiber, broadband vision. Paul Bunyan’s GigaZone, announced last Thursday, made a big splash in the news (featured on the front page of the Minnesota Star Tribune, for instance), as it is one of the first all-fiber networks to encompass such a wide area (5,000 square miles).

What PBC’s GM, Gary Johnson, describes, in the above video, is an offering that is simple for the consumer to understand. The offering is broadband-centric, with voice and television as optional. It is also aggressively priced, in terms of the cost per bit, as one can get 1 Gb/s for only $100/month.

This offering is a radical departure from the traditional telephone-centric offering and portends the future as both urban and rural areas move to all-IP and all-fiber networks. PBC is making a bet that Washington figures out the rural broadband support mechanisms for broadband. In the meantime, instead of waiting on the sidelines, they are taking the risk that the regulatory and policy will catch up and have formulated an offering to match market demands.

As Johnson mentions, this offering also reflects an internal culture shift from telephony to broadband-centric. Paul Bunyan has continually been evolving from its inception in 1950 when an REA administrator told one of its organizers, “Ray, a telephone cooperative is just not going to work up here!” They have continued to defy the odds; serving areas and populations others ignored.

This latest offering is a bit risky for many reasons, but the original directors, who signed the original loan papers that were secured by their personal mortgages, would surely be proud of their legacy and PBC’s continued efforts to help the communities they serve by offering world-class telecommunications’ infrastructure.