2020 Quarter 4 Network Connections Newsletter

Page 1



Page 2:

Celebrating 70 Years of Success Page 3:

70th Annual Meeting Notice Page 4:

BAND: Promises Kept, Even in a Pandemic


General Manager/CEO

The famous quote “Do What You Can, With What You Have, Where You Are,” is undoubtedly an accurate reflection on the mindset and actions of DRN’s The year 2020 is founding cooperative an example, and members in 1950. Our founders joined a reminder, how together setting joining together– up telephone doing what we can, service in our unserved rural with what we have, area. Because of where we are–impacts their determination our success and is and cooperation, this year we at the cornerstone of celebrate our what we do as a cooperative’s 70th year of success. cooperative. Although telecommunications service looks very different now than it did then, the principles remain the same. Now more than ever, during the coronavirus pandemic, we are proud to follow our predecessors commitment to connect our members to family, education, work, healthcare providers and entertainment. The year 2020 is an example, and a reminder, how joining together —doing what we can, with what we have, where we are–impacts our success and is at the cornerstone of what we do as a cooperative.


In the spirit of working to keep North Dakota connected, DRN’s subsidiary, ReadiTech is bringing fiber-to-the-home to Casselton and Mapleton with 1 Gig service and coming soon up to 10 Gig Internet. As our cooperative works to expand our footprint, we are excited to soon be offering our state-of-the-art reliable services to these communities. Our progressive approach and continued investment to serve members with exceptional telecommunication services on DRN’s robust 100% fiber network continues to perform and deliver. As we navigate through this unique time, I’m confident the infrastructure we have in place will provide the best telecommunications services today and in the future. If you have any concerns or questions regarding your services, please do not hesitate to contact us at 344-5000 or online at drnreaditech.coop.

We look forward to seeing you at DRN’s Virtual Annual Meeting 5 p.m. on October 22! Sincerely,

Kent Schimke

DRN ANNUAL MEETING TO BE HELD VIRTUALLY This year, DRN will hold its annual meeting virtually for the protection of our staff and members due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Join the LIVE Stream for DRN’s Annual Meeting on Thursday, October 22 at 5 p.m. Go to youtube.com/drntechtv to watch the Live Stream! Online Registration Thursday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. drnreaditech.coop Included in this year’s agenda will be the election of officers. The following members of the nominating committee met on Wednesday, August 26 and nominated Ralph Greer, Myron Yagow and Brunno Kinzler. Roger Miller, District 2; Joel Christoferson, District 3; Jeanette Kungel, District 4; Jeff Roeder, District 6; Carl Lindgren, District 7; Darrell Schrum, District 8; Don Glynn, District 9; Jerrod Lematta, District 10; and Steve Olson, District 11.The following districts have seats up for election: l District 2 serving Dickey, Litchville and Marion, currently held by Ralph Greer. l District

6 serving Crete and Milnor, currently held by Myron Yagow.

l District

9 serving Fullerton and Guelph, currently held by Brunno Kinzler.

Learn more about your cooperative from President Ralph Neu, CEO/General Manager Kent Schimke, and Financial Manager Troy Radermacher during the meeting as they provide updated reports regarding the cooperative’s operations.

Catch the replay at 7 p.m. on DRN TV, Channel 102 or after the meeting on youtube.com/drntechtv.

s r a e Y 70

A CELEBRATION OF SUCCESS Join us on Thursday, Oct. 22 for a Live Stream at 5 p.m. as we celebrate our 70TH YEAR OF SUCCESS

WATCH LIVE ONLINE: youtube.com/drntechtv


HOW BROADBAND PROVIDERS ARE KEEPING NORTH DAKOTA CONNECTED DURING COVID-19 Teachers using video conferencing to educate their students. Companies closing doors, their employees relying on home Internet to perform their jobs. Healthcare providers utilizing telehealth to care for their patients. All of us depending on broadband to stay in touch with our loved ones.

But BAND organizations went above and beyond the FCC’s call. From laying fiber past their service territories to doubling speeds at no cost, rural broadband providers have stepped up in incredible ways to ensure that their customers have the connectivity they need to serve their communities and adapt to this new normal.

COVID-19 has changed the way we work, learn, and live—not just for a few months, but for the foreseeable future. And when it became clear that the pandemic would not spare our state, the 16 member organizations that compose the Broadband Association of North Dakota (BAND) knew that they had a responsibility: to keep customers connected.

BEK + Bison Booties

This March, more than 700 service providers across the country, including many of our own, signed the Federal Communication Commission’s “Keep Americans Connected” pledge. They agreed to not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills, and to waive any late fees that they may incur because of economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic.


Bison Booties was born out of what Erica Hager calls a “happy accident.” In October 2010, the longtime hobby quilter was experiencing the universal struggle of new parents: nothing would stay on her squirmy baby’s feet. With the chill of an impending North Dakota winter on the wind, Erica set her sewing machine and a box of scrap fabric on a folding table in her unfinished basement and got to work. After a few failed attempts, the first pair of Bison Booties—soft-soled baby shoes that stay on even the kickiest feet—was born. “My daughter wore them and they were great,” Erica said. “I realized that maybe if I like them this much, my friends that were having babies might also like them.”

Fast forward almost a decade, and Bison Booties is a thriving e-commerce business and Erica’s full-time job. That unfinished basement is now her studio, where she designs and creates batches of 400 pairs at a time, selling them on a website that she has designed and maintains herself. Erica’s business ships around the world and has been featured by publications like Martha Stewart Living and Country Living Magazine. She has expanded her product offerings to include onesies, sunglasses, and adult booties. And when COVID-19 hit North Dakota this spring, she added yet another product to her inventory. “During the pandemic, I was able to serve the community by making cloth face covers,” Erica said. “It’s hard to pivot a business, and it was difficult to pivot mine, but there are a few things that made it easier. One, I already sew with fabric, so that part was very natural. The second was that I had a way of quickly getting these face covers out to the people that need them.” “Bison Booties has been able to keep our family and our community safe, and we wouldn’t be able to do it without the high-speed service that we have from BEK,” Erica said. “If I had any doubt in my mind that the Internet might not work tomorrow, or it might not be fast enough for me to upload these photos [of my products], it would have slowed that system so greatly.

I don’t know that it would have been worth it to make them.” “It’s amazing to see a lady with that kind of energy and excitement given the right access to technology, how she can just flourish,” BEK General Manager Derrick Bulawa said. “She went out of her way and figured out how to manufacture these masks and sell and distribute them over the Internet to hundreds and hundreds of people. She’s protecting the community, and we feel like we’re an important part of that.” DCN + Starion Bank Just a few miles east of Bison Booties headquarters, Starion Bank was also grappling with how to care for their community in the midst of a pandemic. The family-owned bank, based in Bismarck, has 16 branches and thousands of customers across North Dakota and Wisconsin. And in early March, they suddenly had more than 200 employees needing to work from home. “We started discussing what impacts COVID might have on our business, and within the next week or so we started making decisions on closing branches, sending people home to work,” said Kevin Valleroy, IT Manager and VP at Starion Bank. “And one of the things that we Continued on next page.


KEEPING NORTH DAKOTA CONNECTED DURING COVID-19 recognized is that, with the number of people working from home, we could potentially need some more Internet bandwidth.” Kevin worried that the sudden influx of teammates accessing Starion’s network from home would lead to a bottleneck, preventing them from providing their customers with the service they needed when they needed it. Starion reached out to their broadband provider, Dakota Carrier Network (DCN), to see if they could help ease the transition. Starion Bank and DCN have a longstanding relationship rooted in collaboration and innovation. Founded in 1996, DCN is owned by 14 independent rural broadband companies (all are also BAND members) and was created to help support the local broadband companies and statewide enterprises. And as technology has evolved, so has the relationship between these two growing companies. Over the past six years, DCN and its member owners have connected every single one of Starion’s 16 branches, even as far as Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, to their extensive fiber optic backbone. As they have so many times in the past, DCN stepped up this spring to ensure that their customer, and their customer’s customers, stayed connected. “At DCN, our main priority is keeping our customers connected,” said Seth Arndorfer, CEO of DCN. “During COVID-19 that connection has been more important than ever before.” In less than a week, DCN was able to increase Starion’s Internet speed from 200Mbps to 500Mbps—so that neither employees nor customers would experience congestion due to the pandemic. “Just imagine how frustrating it would have been to be in an isolation or a quarantine environment and not have the connectivity,” This increase in speed has allowed Starion employees to work safely from home for the duration of the pandemic and provide their customers with the quality of service they have come to expect. Most importantly, it has given them peace of mind. “With our COVID response, we had a lot of other things going on that we had to worry about,” Kevin said. “And with DCN providing the extra bandwidth, we didn’t have to worry about that. It just gives us a little bit more comfort level and security with the number of people working from home.” Working Together — The North Dakota Way As the COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented demand for broadband across our state, the 16 member organizations that form BAND have all stepped up in unprecedented ways to support their customers. DRN is a proud member of BAND and part owner of DCN. While there remain more questions than answers about the future of the virus, one thing remains certain. As North Dakotans, we will continue to work together to bring education to students wherever they are, support businesses as they move online, and to empower the people of North Dakota to do what they do best: innovate and collaborate.



NEW DIRECTORY LISTINGS VACATION RATES FOR SNOWBIRDS Going south for the winter and wondering what to do with your telecommunications services while your gone? DRN offers vacation rates for customers who leave their residence for less than six months. Lower your monthly bill by putting your DRN ReadiTech services on vacation rate. To put your service on vacation rate, simply call DRN at 344-5000 to sign up or request online at www.drtel.com. A one-time service fee of $25 applies. There is no charge to reconnect within six months of placing service on vacation rate.

READITECH FIBER CONSTRUCTION UPDATE This summer ReadiTech, a DRN Company, began fiber construction to expand Internet and phones services to Casselton. The crews have been hard at work and over 66% of the main fiber optic lines have been placed. Building a 100% fiber network for Casselton, ReadiTech will provide 1 Gig Internet speeds once complete with plans to roll-out 10 Gig Internet in the future. For more information about the Casselton fiber project, contact ReadiTech at 701-347-2020 or go to readitech.com/fiber.

Catch local winter sports action on BEK Sports and BEK Sports Plus+. Visit beksports.com to see a full schedule.

Ashley 288 Kent & Sally Lovell............... 288-3708 Kristie Morrison.................... 288-3578 Edgeley 493 Phyllis Berntson.................... 493-2492 Shirley Young........................ 493-2430 Forman 724 Central Grocery LLC............ 724-6233 Mary Ronning....................... 724-3360 Guelph 783 Katheryn Scheffert.............. 783-4367 Kathryn 796 Tangen Farm......................... 796-7431 Kulm 647 Jay Clarey................................ 647-2218 Margaret Fredenburg........ 647-2034 LaMoure 883 Jean Hanson.......................... 883-5935 Betty Henrikson................... 883-5697 Little Loboes Bright Beginnings........ ................................................... 883-5835 Richard Roeker..................... 883-4224 Lisbon 683 A & E’s Bake n’ Brew............. 683-4796 Todd Anderson..................... 683-5003 Karen Asche........................... 683-9220 Ramona Biss.......................... 683-5133 Brent Dick............................... 683-5152 Mobility Plus Rehabilitation............... ................................................... 683-7901 Oakes 742 B&B Gardens.......................... 742-2665 Nodak Insurance Trevor Davis Agency ................................................... 742-3586 Delores Wagner.................... 742-7377


OCTOBER IS CO-OP MONTH Happy National Co-Op Month! Celebrated by cooperatives nationwide, National Co-op Month is an annual opportunity to raise awareness of a trusted, proven way to do business and build communities. It’s reason to celebrate because in America there are more than 40,000 cooperatives of all types, supporting jobs that provide more than $25 billion in wages. According to a study by the University of Wisconsin funded in part by USDA, cooperatives have an estimated 350 million members. Many people belong to more than one cooperative.

THANK YOU TO OUR LOCAL HEROES As we take time to reflect on our members this October in honor of Cooperative Month, DRN ReadiTech pays special recognition to our members who work in schools, nursing homes, hospitals, law enforcement and similar settings. Thank you for your countless hours of dedication to help care, teach, protect and lead in our communities. On behalf of DRN ReadiTech’s Board of Directors and staff, we are grateful for your faithfulness working as local heroes in the community.



DRN READITECH GIVES BACK DRN ReadiTech recently presented donations to area community organizations. We recognize the importance of being involved in and focused on the betterment of our communities. To continue this commitment, DRN ReadiTech recently donated to the Ellendale Park Board, Little Loboes Bright Beginnings, the Ransom County Historical Society and the OPERA House. After 30 years of use, the Ellendale Swimming Pool needed a new liner as well as gutters. DRN ReadiTech donated funds to the Ellendale Park Board, which will be used towards the restoration of the pool. Little Loboes Bright Beginnings (LLBB) will be a new childcare and preschool facility in the community of LaMoure. DRN ReadiTech donated $5,000 to help with the construction and outfitting of the new building. LLBB opened September 1, 2020.


The Ransom County Historical Society tends to a museum, a barn, a schoolhouse, and a mill located in Fort Ransom. DRN ReadiTech recently donated a laptop to help document and catalog the items at these sites. The historic 111-year-old building in Ellendale, known as the Opera House, needs serious structural repairs on its north side. DRN ReadiTech’s Board of Directors approved a $2,500 donation to the non-profit organization to help replace the building’s damaged wall. Donations made by DRN ReadiTech help these organizations grow closer in accomplishing their goals and in ultimately better serving our communities.

Top Left Photo: Park Board President, Jeff Ulmer accepting the donation on behalf of the Ellendale Park Board from Janell Hauck, DRN ReadiTech. Top Right Photo: Little Loboes Bright Beginnings Board Members receive the donation from Janell Hauck, DRN ReadiTech. (From left: Janell Hauck, Germaine Erbele, Eve Lesko, Cassie Potts) Bottom Left Photo: Ransom County Historical Society Board Members accepted the donation from Janell Hauck, DRN ReadiTech. (From left to right: Janell Hauck, Nancy Lee Loftsgard, Mary Anne Paulson, Marylin Sorby, Noreen Frazee, Mattie Richardson). Bottom Right Photo: Left to right OPERA Board of Directors, Marilyn Burow, Jeanette Robb and Grant Crabtree accept the donation from Janell Hauck, DRN ReadiTech.


DRN READITECH TO BE FEATURED ON NATIONAL DOCUMENTARY DRN Readitech is pleased to announce the nationally distributed television program, Behind the Scenes with Host Laurence Fishburne, selected the cooperative to be featured on a segment of the show this fall. When approach by Laurence Fishburne’s media group, I thought this would be an excellent opportunity for us as a cooperative to share our story—how we have invested millions of dollars so people living in rural America can compete in the world economy with blazing fast broadband. Our fiber-optic network allows for the best education, telehealth medicine, commerce, entertainment and family communication.

Kent Schimke DRN ReadiTech CEO/GM

Lights and cameras filled the DRN Board Room on June 17 as directors and producers from Behind The Scenes filmed a documentary regarding DRN’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and rural broadband access. DRN ReadiTech ensured work, school and daily life could continue in its communities during the quarantine by keeping all residents connected to broadband Internet and quickly connecting new homes. To capture the full story, the Behind the Scenes crew interviewed: DRN ReadiTech CEO/General Manager Kent Schimke; David Crothers, executive director for the Broadband Association of North Dakota (BAND), Ellendale Public School Superintendent Michael Kaiser; Shannon Story continued on bottom of next page.

The Behind the Scenes short-form documentary series will be distributed to Public Television stations in all 50 states, with an estimated reach for one year of 60 million households. The documentary is educational in nature. Behind the Scenes is an award-winning program highlighting new stories and innovative concepts through groundbreaking short-form and long-form documentary presentation. The program, anchored by a veteran production team with decades of industry experience, can effectively communicate the most critical stories to a wide and diverse audience.


DRN READITECH PARTNERS WITH VIRTUAL ACADEMY TO EXPAND DISTANCE LEARNING DRN ReadiTech is leading the way to bring online classes to more students throughout the state as a partner with the SE Dakota Virtual Academy. DRN ReadiTech donated $20,000 to the virtual academy for the 2020-2021 school year.

SE Dakota Virtual Academy 240 Students in K-8 34 Schools

"As virtual learning has become commonplace during the COVID-19 pandemic, DRN ReadiTech is committed to ensure North Dakota students have access to the wonderful opportunities SE Dakota Virtual Learning Academy provides. We're excited to help prepare our students for future success through this online learning academy," said DRN CEO/General Manager Kent Schimke. Currently, there are 34 area schools in the SE Dakota Virtual Academy who share the resources making it an affordable way for schools to enhance instruction in a variety of programs and subjects, as well as careers focused on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. STEM has received significant attention from educators, business leaders, scientists, and policy makers because of the need to improve math and science performance and help increase the number of students in the U.S. pursuing an education in engineering.

Fall Sun Outage Notice October 6–12 Twice each year, in the spring and in the fall, cable companies experience some degree of interference due to sun outages. TV programming from satellites becomes directly in line with the sun causing reception interference from the sun’s electromagnetic rays. During an outage, TV pictures might become pixelated or in some cases disappear completely. Unfortunately, there’s nothing that can be done to prevent sun outages. In most cases, the signals are restored within a few minutes.

Documentary features DRN ReadiTech continued from page 10 and Hilary Mehrer, owners of Dakota Precision Fabrication, Inc. of Forman; and Alan Qual, Qual Dairy of Lisbon. Kent Schimke, DRN ReadiTech’ s CEO/GM was contacted in early 2020 because Behind the Scenes was interested in filming a documentary regarding broadband access in Rural America. “When approach by Laurence Fishburne’s media group, I thought to myself this would be an excellent opportunity for us as a cooperative to share our story—how we have invested millions of dollars so people living in rural America can compete in the world economy with blazing fast broadband. Our fiber optic network allows for the best education, telehealth medicine, commerce, entertainment and family communication. It presented itself as a perfect opportunity to showcase how North and South Dakota are great places to live and work because of the technology that is available to its residents.” In order to be chosen for the show, DRN ReadiTech was evaluated through a selection process. The company provided Behind the Scenes information about its telecommunications services, the cooperative and met other qualifications.


READi TECH 9628 Highway 281 PO Box 69 Ellendale, ND 58436

This institution is an equal-opportunity provider and employer.

Wishing you a happy & healthy holiday season! Our offices will be closed the following days for our staff to spend time with loved ones: Veteran’s Day • Wednesday, Nov. 11 Thanksgiving Day • Thursday, Nov. 26 Christmas Day • Friday, Dec. 25 New Year’s Day • Friday, Jan. 1

Headquarters 9628 Hwy 281 | PO Box 69 Ellendale, ND 58436

Lisbon Office 16 4th Ave W Lisbon, ND 58054

Oakes Office 103 6th St S Oakes, ND 58474