2021 Q2 Network Connections Newsletter

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Page 2:

Planning Our Next Steps for Growth Page 4:

How a “Flyover” State Became a National Leader in Broadband Page 7:

ReadiTech Engineering


General Manager/CEO KENT SCHIMKE


pring is a time of growth and renewal. Not only is our entire team happy to be back

outside in the warmer weather, we are excited to begin work on expanding our fiber-optic network! With our next steps planned for fiber construction in the cooperative and ReadiTech areas, we are very thankful for the opportunity to provide you with Ultimate Fiber Internet.

Cooperative Fiber Construction Nelvik & Kulm Exchanges

In 2021, our next steps to expand and upgrade our reliable fiber network throughout our territory, covers 32 miles between the Nelvik and Kulm exchanges. We will upgrade the area with a 96-strand fiber to enhance the robust 100 Gig network currently in place and provide added durability and redundancy in our western territory.

Eastern North Dakota Fiber Expansion

As part of our strategic long-term plan for the cooperative to maintain a strong core business, and keep rural America connected, our focus is on continued growth and expansion in the Eastern part of North Dakota. ReadiTech is working on the details to bring our Gig fiber-to-the-home service to the residents of Horace as a CLEC, Competitive Local Exchange Carrier.

New Professional Solutions

I am very pleased and excited to present additional professional business services to the DRN ReadiTech suite of services: ReadiTech Engineering, Human Resources, Marketing and Project Management. These services provide a diverse additional revenue source, cost savings, and operational efficiencies for the Cooperative. You can read more about ReadiTech Engineering on page 7. We look forward to serving you and keeping you connected to the best telecommunications services available. If you have any questions about your DRN ReadiTech services, please feel free to contact us by calling 877-559-4692. You can also visit drnreaditech.coop or readitech.com.

FIBER CONSTRUCTION HAS BEGUN! Watch for crews working near you in Nelvik, Kulm, Casselton and Mapleton this spring and summer.


DRN READITECH OFFICES OPEN TO PUBLIC JUNE 1 DRN ReadiTech employees are transitioning back to the office and continue to make sure your telecommunications needs are being met. Although employees are back, the offices remain closed to customers except by appointment until June 1. At that time office hours will be 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and closed for lunch from Noon to 1 p.m. DRN ReadiTech is taking precautions to maintain a healthy work environment such as continuing the recommendation of social distancing, asking questions before working onsite and wearing masks. Remember if you need to contact DRN ReadiTech, staff is available by calling (701) 344-5000, local in the cooperative area, or (701) 347-2020 in Casselton, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with the help desk available 24/7. Plus, you can visit drn.smarthub.coop to check your bill and make payments any time.

Starting June 1 Office Hours 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Closed Noon – 1 p.m.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact lives, the communities that DRN and ReadiTech serve are getting stronger. According to the North Dakota Smart Restart roadmap enforced by Governor Burgum, our state is within the low risk level. North Dakota has gone above and beyond to slow the spread of the virus and became more resilient by working together.


OLD DAIRY QUEEN BUILDING TRANSFORMS INTO NEW READITECH OFFICE IN CASSELTON The old Dairy Queen building, located at 42 Langer Avenue North in Casselton, is now the new home of ReadiTech’s customer service office. The office will be open to the public starting Tuesday, June 1. Watch for updates to celebrate with us this summer during our official grand opening!

Main Reception Area




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HOW A “FLYOVER” STATE BECAME A NATIONAL LEADER IN BROADBAND CONNECTIVITY These days, conventional wisdom would have you believe that anything west of the Appalachian Mountains and east of the Rockies is an Internet black hole—a vast expanse of land running on technology decades behind that of the Coasts. But if you speak to a third-generation farmer in Langdon, a newspaper publisher in New Leipzig, or a performance horse breeder in Epping, you’ll soon learn that you don’t need to travel to Silicon Valley or New York City to find the best Internet speeds in America. You can find them right here, in rural North Dakota. According to recent data from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), more than three quarters of rural North Dakotans have access to fiber broadband, compared to only 20 percent of rural residents nationally. In fact, rural North Dakotans are more likely to have access to gigabit speeds than even urban Americans.


So, how has a “flyover” state like North Dakota emerged as a national leader in broadband connectivity?

Our unparalleled rural network can be traced back to 1953, when a group of North Dakota telephone cooperatives banded together to keep North Dakota connected. Today, almost 70 years later, this organization is known as the Broadband Association of North Dakota, or BAND. The 15 member organizations that form BAND have laid over 40,000 miles of fiber across the state, changing the lives of folks across North Dakota. But if you ask the people doing the work, they’ll tell you that they’re just doing what North Dakotans have always done: working hard, supporting one another, and pioneering new solutions to meet the needs of their neighbors. “The members of BAND have taken it very seriously to deploy fiber optic facilities throughout the state,” said Keith Larson, Chief Executive Officer of BAND member organization Dakota Central. “Thanks to the collective efforts of the BAND members, we’ve been able to be one of the most connected states in the U.S.”

Getting Farther, Together

It all started at Bismarck’s Patterson Hotel. In March 1953, directors from nine North Dakota telephone cooperatives gathered there with a goal to guard against unfavorable legislation, share information and resources, and ensure that high-quality telephone service remained available across North Dakota. At the time of that fateful first meeting, a majority of rural North Dakota residents still relied on party-line service, in which wires were strung from pole to pole and long distance calls were prohibitively expensive. Today, rural areas of the state have access to some of the fastest and most affordable broadband technology anywhere in the nation. And while the technology that these companies provide has evolved over the past six decades, their mission —to ensure the highest quality communication technology is accessible to all North Dakotans —has not wavered. In 1996, this mission led BAND member companies to form the Dakota Carrier Network (DCN), a high-speed, large-capacity fiber backbone that spans the entire state. In this symbiotic relationship, BAND serves as a representative body, providing advocacy and education for its member organizations, while DCN serves as the single pointof-contact for the North Dakota businesses and government networks—including all K-12 schools, colleges and universities—who rely on the over 40,000 miles of fiber optic cabling deployed across the state. Collaboration between the providers that make up DCN and BAND has laid the groundwork for innovation in our state, including an unprecedented educational technology system. In July 2019, DCN successfully connected every K-12 school in the state to fiber-based one-gigabit Internet, becoming the first state in the nation to achieve this milestone. Now all North Dakota schools, regardless of size

or location, have access to the same high-speed Internet. Then, in March 2020, thousands of North Dakota students suddenly needed to complete school remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rural broadband providers were able to connect 99.8% of North Dakota students to high-speed home Internet in just a matter of weeks—all because a group of telephone cooperatives realized, more than half a century ago, that they could get farther by working together.

Serving Our Neighbors

If this spirit of collaboration is what paved the way for a broadband revolution in North Dakota, then a commitment to the people they serve is what keeps rural broadband providers charging ahead. The member companies that form BAND and DCN continue to bring state-of-theart technology to their communities not because it is profitable, but because it’s the right thing to do. Because unlike large national corporations, they are serving their neighbors, not just faceless customers. They are serving people like Sean Feil, who farms barley, wheat, and soybeans 20 miles from Langdon. Before BAND member United Communications dug fiber out to Sean’s farm, if he needed to look up equipment on the Internet, he had to drive all the way back into town. Now, a point-to-point Internet connection allows Sean to keep up-to-date on markets, weather, and equipment right from the field. But more importantly, broadband allows Sean to spend more time with his wife and their three young children. “During the busy times, I can still stay in touch with my wife and ask how things are going back home,” he said. “And every night before bed, I FaceTime my kids to say goodnight and tell them I love them.” Continued next page.


They are serving people like Gene Vandeberg, owner of Sandhill Performance Quarter Horses near Epping, who uses services offered by Northwest Communications Cooperative (NCC) to take care of his horses. Before he had access to broadband that allowed him to check on his horses at night, Gene was often forced to get out of bed to go check on them himself. “I was lucky if I’d get four or five hours of sleep a night, and checking on the horses took up to 45 minutes,” he said. “Now, I can look at the cameras to check on the horses, and I can be done in 10 minutes.” And they are serving people like Jill Friesz, the owner of a rural publishing house who is on a mission to save small-town newspapers from going extinct. When Jill took over the Grant County News fifteen years ago, creating a newspaper by hand was a day-long process, not including the actual reporting, writing, and distribution. But now, thanks to high-speed Internet from her local broadband provider, WRT, Jill can create and distribute a paper in a fraction of the time. “Broadband has completely changed the newspaper industry,” Jill said. “The sky’s the limit for us. We can really do anything that anybody else can do, especially now that we’re connected to the world.” For the 15 local broadband providers that make up BAND, people like Sean, Gene, and Jill are the reason North Dakota continues to provide the fastest, most reliable Internet in the nation. Stories like theirs prove that you don’t need to move to the Coasts to live a prosperous and fulfilling life; with the Internet at their fingertips, North Dakotans can continue to live in the rural communities they love while building their businesses, accessing the highest quality of education, and staying connected to the rest of the world. Working together to serve our neighbors—it’s how North Dakota emerged as a nationwide leader in broadband connectivity almost 70 years ago, and how we will continue to lead for many decades to come.

DRN READITECH GIVES BACK Volunteer firefighters in Kulm are closer to receiving new safety gear thanks to a $5,000 donation from DRN ReadiTech. The donation will go towards the purchase of replacing outdated personal protective equipment: helmet, jacket, bibs, boots and gloves, which are all from the early 1990’s, as well as, replacing old self-contained breathing apparatuses, SCBAs from the mid-2000’s.

Kulm Volunteer Fire Department (left to right): Liz Braun, Zeb Mahin, Jenn McDermid and Glenn Gerszewski.


“We are happy to support the Kulm Volunteer Fire Department with this donation to help keep the fire fighters safe,” said DRN CEO/General Manager Kent Schimke. “These dedicated volunteers go above and beyond for their community. We appreciate their sacrifice in serving and thank them for their commitment,” continued Schimke.

READITECH LAUNCHES A NEW DIVISION; COMPANY ENTERS THE ENGINEERING MARKET ReadiTech, a client-focused technology driven IT and telecommunications company announced the launch of a new network engineering division called ReadiTech Engineering. The new division will accelerate the growth of its core broadband business by leveraging the expertise, intellectual property, and invaluable customer relationships at ReadiTech and its parent company, DRN.

is excited about the possibilities and potential of bringing together traditional broadband services, coupled with managed IT and engineering under one umbrella. The launch of this division brings the expertise of professional engineers to create fiber optic networks, architecture design and other services to create future-proof services plus adds diversification for a potential new source of revenue,” said Neu.

“We are extremely excited to launch ReadiTech Engineering and welcome the team to the ReadiTech family,” said ReadiTech CEO/General Manager Kent Schimke. “ReadiTech's parent company, DRN, is a cooperative with over 70 years of serving The launch of this our members. Since the cooperative began in 1950, division brings we have reached our goals the expertise to provide the best possible telecommunications and IT of professional services with client-focused engineers to create solutions by surrounding ourselves with vendors and fiber optic networks, contractors who have the architecture design same progressive mindset and commitment to technology.” and other services to DRN has been deploying fiber and creating networks requiring network engineering and architecture design with fiberoptic management buildouts for over 20 years. By launching ReadiTech Engineering, the company is not only expanding its technology services, but also fulfilling its purpose as a cooperative-owned entity to evolve based on clients’ needs.

create future-proof services plus adds diversification for a potential new source of revenue.

Ralph Neu


According to DRN Board of Directors President Ralph Neu, creating the new division is considered a great success. “DRN’s Board is always looking for ways to serve the cooperative and its members with exceptional products and services. The board

Leading the new ReadiTech Engineering division is Dustin Maier, Bismarck. Maier has 27 years of telecommunications and networking experience and is a licensed Professional Engineer in 21 states. For a division just created a few months ago, the ReadiTech Engineering team already consists of 18 people, and growing, with a combined technical experience of 350 years. “We have a technically diverse team, meaning one size does not fit all. We want to know and understand your business concepts and required outcomes so we can integrate them into our designs and engineering,” says Maier. “Ultimately, resulting in a functional system our clients can rely on,” he added.

The ReadiTech Engineering office is in Bismarck, giving the engineers and staff easy access to clients across the state and upper Midwest. For more information regarding ReadiTech Engineering, visit www.engr.readitech.com.


Understanding Internet connection speeds


hen you order your home Internet package from your service provider, you usually have several options to choose from. Speed is often the most important factor since a faster Internet connection will improve your overall online experience. The challenge is that the fastest Internet speeds are typically the most expensive. That’s why it’s important to understand how Internet connection speeds work to ensure you select the right package for the needs of your household.

How is Internet speed measured? Let’s start with the concept of speed, or bandwidth, as it’s sometimes called. Measured in Megabits per second (Mbps) or Gigabits per second (Gbps), your Internet speed is the amount of data that can be transferred every second over your Internet connection. Your speed determines the type of activities you can do online and how quickly you can do them.


A connection speed of 1 Mbps, for example, allows you to browse web pages easily, but it’s not fast enough for you to stream HD videos on Netflix. According to Netflix, that requires a minimum connection speed of 5 Mbps. If you tried to stream HD video at 1 Mbps, your video would be poor quality and would likely stutter or pause altogether. On the other hand, a speed of 1 Gbps—one thousand times faster than 1 Mbps—is blazing fast, allowing you to do almost anything, including letting multiple family members stream 4K video simultaneously. Download speeds versus upload speeds—When you are choosing an Internet package, there are two speeds you need to consider: the download speed and the upload speed. The download speed is the speed data travels from a remote location on the Internet to your Internetconnected device. For example, if you are watching a video on YouTube, the download speed is the rate the video stream travels from the YouTube server to your computer, phone or device. The upload speed, on the other hand, is the speed data travels from your connected device to a remote location on the Internet. For example, if you post a video or a photo onto a social media site like Facebook, the upload speed is the rate the information travels from your device to the Facebook server.

Continued next page.

Understanding Internet connection speeds

from page 8

Asymmetrical Internet packages from other providers—Many Internet providers offer packages with download speeds greater than the upload speeds. This is called an asymmetrical connection and means the download speeds and upload speeds are not equal. Unfortunately, asymmetrical packages can negatively impact the connection performance if upload speeds aren’t fast enough for your needs. Why are download speeds generally faster than upload speeds? Originally most of our online activities, like web surfing and video streaming, require downloading a lot of data. However, today, our online usage has evolved and upload speeds are equally important. Now it is common to work or attend school online from home, see our family doctor on a video visit or even run a small business from home. DRN ReadiTech fiber provides symmetrical bandwidth with equal upload and download speeds. Whether you’re streaming a movie or meeting a friend on Zoom, your fiber Internet lets you enjoy equally fast download and upload speeds. The bottom line? The speed of your Internet connection has a big impact on the quality of your online experience. So when you’re choosing an Internet package from your provider, make sure both the download and upload speeds are fast enough for your online activities. DRN ReadiTech makes it easy with equal upload and download speeds to offer you the best of both worlds.

DRN ReadiTech fiber provides synchronous or symmetrical bandwidth, meaning the upload and download speeds are the same. Whether you’re streaming a movie or meeting a friend on Zoom, your fiber Internet lets you enjoy equally fast download and upload speeds.

COOPERATIVE NEWS COMMUNITY IMPROVEMENT GRANTS AVAILABLE FOR COOPERATIVE AREA DRN ReadiTech Cooperative area businesses and community organizations can now apply for the 2021 Rural Development Finance Corporation grant and receive up to $2,000! Deadline to apply is Dec. 15, 2021. Your local telecommunications cooperative is a proud member of The Rural Development Finance Corporation, RDFC. The RDFC is a North Dakota nonprofit finance and development corporation that encourages economic diversification and community vitality through funding. Grant funds are available to eligible projects that benefit rural areas and lead to community progress and betterment. Examples of qualifying organizations and businesses are: Community-Owned Businesses—café, grocery store, motel, other; Community Facilities: ambulance, fire districts, recreation, hospital/clinic, community center, etc.; and Community-Based Projects: school or youth projects in rural areas leading to community betterment. RDFC is making these funds available in order that more people become aware of their larger loan program that funds community-based projects and non-profit entities with low interest loans.




UNIVERSAL SERVICE Under the Telecommunications Act of 1996, “universal service” means affordable access to both telecommunications and high-speed Internet services for all consumers. Universal service provides access to the telecommunications network which includes local usage, touchtone calling, single-party service, access to emergency 911 services, access to operator services, access to directory assistance, access to long distance telephone service, high-speed Internet and discounted services to qualifying low-income consumers. These services are available from DRN in the cooperative exchanges of: Ashley, Crete, Dickey, Edgeley, Ellendale, Forbes, Forman, Fort Ransom, Fredonia, Fullerton, Guelph, Gwinner, Jud, Kathryn, Kulm, LaMoure, Lisbon, Litchville, Marion, Merricourt, Milnor, Nelvik, Oakes, Venturia, and Verona. Lifeline Assistance is currently not available in Mapleton and Casselton. As of April 1, 2021, charges for these universal services are: l Basic local residential & business service $22.50. l Basic phone with Internet is $69.99. l Access to directory assistance 80 cents per call. If you call a long distance company for assistance, this company may charge for its services. Federal, State and Local Prescribed Charges: Federal Subscriber Line Charge l Residential and Single-line Business $6.50 l Multi-line Business $9.20 Federal Universal Service Charge l Residential $2.17 l Single-line Business $3.17 l Multi-line Business $4.07 l Telecommunications Relay Service $0.03 l E911-Emergency Services $1–2 (based on county) If you have any questions on Universal Services, please contact DRN ReadiTech at 344-5000.

Low-income Programs: As of December 1, 2020, the Lifeline federal government monthly bill credit for phone service is up to $5.25 per qualified household. If you subscribe to the Lifeline Internet service, the monthly credit is up to $9.25 per qualified household. Lifeline subscriptions are limited to one per household. This program is available for either phone or Internet service, but not both. Toll blocking available at no charge to low-income consumers, to prevent long distance calls from your phone.

Lifeline Assistance Go to lifelinesupport.org to learn more. Or, to see if you qualify for Lifeline support, go to: checklifeline. org/lifeline. For other questions and to speak to a customer care specialist, call DRN ReadiTech at 344-5000.

SPRING CHANNEL LINEUP CHANGES This spring, cooperative television subscribers will receive Circle TV, a new channel featuring country music and rural programming on channel 125. Programming includes Lone Ranger, Bonanza and Opry Live. Also, Fox Sports announced it renamed all regional channels to Bally Sports on March 31. Fox Sports North is now called Bally Sports North. Find Bally Sports North and Bally Sports North Plus on DRN ReadiTech TV channels 221 and 222.




DRN ReadiTech is looking for two IT interns, interested in working in a fast-paced, dynamic telecommunications and IT environment. Join our team to learn about our company, gain valuable hands-on experience and grow your future!

Dickey 778 Dennis Lewis.................................... 778-5321

Ashley 288 Gordon & Ruth Knoll .................... 288-3956

Ellendale 349 Ginger Knutson............................... 349-2370 Forman 724 Norm Alme....................................... 724-4034 Lorrie Eiter......................................... 724-6289

IT Intern Principle Responsibilities: l Assist with IT system administration. l Manage backup solutions. l Research & development projects. l Exposure to Managed Services IT projects. l Assist with daily administrative duties and all other duties as assigned.

Gwinner 678 Bertha Siemieniewski................... 678-2241 Charlene Smith................................ 678-2543 Kulm 647 Ricky Schlecht.................................. 647-2483

Web Development Intern Principle Responsibilities: l Assist with web hosting projects. l Assist with BrightGauge reports development. l Assist the Unify-iVUE/CW Integration project. l Develop software features, deployment of software and bug fixing. l Assist with FIDS development. l Assist with daily administrative duties and all other duties as assigned.

LaMoure 883 Bruce Bagstad.................................. 883-5708 David Ruud....................................... 883-5532 Lisbon 683 Ruth Asche........................................ 683-4679 Flowers Etc........................................ 683-2173 Vivian & John Larson..................... 683-2239 Shari Nunn........................................ 683-3087 Milnor 427 Beyer Insurance Agency Inc....... 427-3121 Martinson Ag Risk Mgmt............. 427-5694 Nodak Insurance Company.............427-3500

For a full job description and to apply visit: drnreaditech.coop/careers. Deadline is April 15, 2021.

Oakes 742 Walt Quandt..................................... 742-1654


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