Red River Communicaitons - Spring 2020 Newsletter

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Welcome to the New Rural

Your FiberFASTTM Internet Cooperative

From the General Manager


Keep Calm and Avoid Scams



Red River Communications SPRING 2020

SPRING 2020 Edition Volume 5, Issue 1 The Red River Communications newsletter is published quarterly for our members. It is distributed free-of-charge to our members in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS Dave Gauslow President District 1 - Abercrombie Ronald German Vice-President District 8 - Fairmount/Hankinson Gary Boutiette Secretary/Treasurer District 5 - Kent Wayne Schindler District 2 - Barnesville Rhonda Erbes District 3 - Colfax Harlan Deike District 4 - Great Bend Neil Klosterman District 6 - Mooreton Thomas Bjorndahl District 7 - Rollag Ione Eckre District 9 - Lidgerwood/Wyndmere

Red River Rural Telephone Assoc. 510 Broadway, PO Box 136 Abercrombie, ND 58001 REDRIVERCOMM.COM Produced by the staff of Red River Communications

Cover Photo: A crop duster works fields near Abercrombie.

From the General Manager Jeffrey Olson GENERAL MANAGER/CEO In these challenging times we see the qualities in people that make living here special. We’ve seen people stepping up to help each other and look beyond themselves as they serve others. Deb Sagvold, one of the cooperative members, made and donated facemasks for our technicians out of concern for their well-being. I cannot overexpress my appreciation to Deb for this act of kindness to our technicians. The communities and rural areas we serve are strong, and together we’ll all get through this challenging and unprecedented situation. Throughout this pandemic I have been amazed at the work ethic and positive attitude shown by my coworkers at Red River Communications.

Technicians Joe Hass and David Rystad sport masks made by Deb Sagvold

When the need arose, our team arranged and installed nearly 60 internet connections for students who had no previous connection. This was done in a matter of only two weeks and in time for these students to participate in distance learning through their respective school districts. Many of our coworkers have been working from home and everyday I see the determination to keep our members connected, even when they themselves are feeling isolated and are missing family, friends, and coworkers. While we see so many examples of people rising to this challenge, we also see an increase in the incidents of scammers and hackers attempting to get your sensitive information. This is accomplished through very polished phishing and malware attacks. Phishing is when people try to get you to give them sensitive information, such as social security numbers, credit card numbers, bank account information and so on. Malware are programs that can get into your computer and damage or delete files.

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inputting information.

Use strong passwords and double check website addresses before downloading something or

I wish you all good health and safety as we navigate through these challenging times.

Unfortunately, some people are taking this vulnerable time to exploit people. If you stay vigilant, you will be fine. If you have questions about something you think may be a scam, don’t hesitate to give us a call.


Red River Communications SPRING 2020

In order to protect yourself from these threats, stay vigilant while on your computer! Don’t open or click on attachments from unrecognized sources. Watch out for those pesky pop-up ads. Don’t fall for a scam – if something appears too good to be true, it probably is and is only an attempt to get your money.

and Avoid

Coronavirus scams

Here are 5 THINGS you can do to avoid a Coronavirus scam: Ignore offers for vaccinations and home test kits. Scammers are selling products to treat or prevent COVID-19 without proof that they work.

Hang up on robocalls. Scammers use illegal sales call to get your money and your personal information.

Watch out for phishing emails and text messages. Don’t click on links in emails or texts you didn’t expect.

Research before you donate. Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. Get tips on donating wisely at

Stay in the know. Go to for the latest information on scams. Sign up to get FTC’s alerts at

According to security firm Zscaler


Cybersecurity attacks have risen by 30,000% since JAnuary, including malware and phishing emails about coronavirus or stimulus funds.


Red River Communications SPRING 2020

Keep Americans Connected Given the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on American society, Red River Communications pledges to:

not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic; waive any late fees that any residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic; and open its Wi-Fi hotspots to any American who needs them. We are honoring this pledge until June 30. We ask that any customer needing to make payment arrangements please call us at 701-553-8309 or email membersupport@ While our lobby remains closed, you can make payments online, using our automated payment hotline, by mail, or by dropping your payment off in our dropbox at 510 Broadway in Abercrombie.

Annual Meeting Update Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 68th annual meeting has been postponed and will be rescheduled at a later date when conditions allow. Any announcements relating to the rescheduled annual meeting will be posted on Facebook and our website. You will receive an official notice in the mail per the bylaws of the Association Additionally, we have currently postponed our usual summer customer appreciation events until later this summer and fall. Please keep an eye on our website and our Facebook page for updates.

Lifeline Lifeline is the FCC’s program to help make communications services more affordable for lowincome consumers. Lifeline provides a monthly discount of up to $9.25 for eligible low-income subscribers. FCC rules prohibit more than one Lifeline service per household at any time. To participate in the Lifeline program, subscribers must either have an income that is at or below 135% of the federal Poverty Guidelines or participate in certain assistance programs. You can see if you are eligible with the Lifeline Eligibility Pre-Screening Tool on the Universal Service Administrative website at or call 1-888-641-8722.



Planting a tree or putting up a fence? Remember to contact North Dakota One Call or Gopher State One Call! There are several utility lines buried such as fiber optic, electric, gas or water... The first step to any project is safety! Damaging an underground facility can be costly and can cause injury or even death. Dial 811 to contact North Dakota One Call or Gopher State One Call and the utility line owners will be notified to locate their lines. It’s free, it’s simple, and it’s the law.


RedRiver RiverCommunications CommunicationsSPRING SPRING2020 2020 Red

Common Cents Barnesville Boy Scouts Troop 604

The Common Cents board of directors met quarterly to review applications and donated $14,500 to community organizations and individuals in 2019, with a total of $179,446.50 being awarded since the program started in 2008.

For the Common Good

RECENT AWARDS BIO Girls – Wyndmere $1,000 for curriculum materials

Marketplace for Kids $500 for virtual reality goggles

Boys Scouts, Barnesville Troop 604 $1,000 toward a trailer

Common Cents is a non-profit entity operated separately from Red River Communications. It awards funds to local non-profit and community organizations, as well as offering emergency & medical assistance for local individuals. Funds are raised when Cooperative customers choose to round up their monthly bill to the next dollar. A tax-deductible donation of less than one dollar per month is made to Common Cents.

Donated since 2008 to causes in our Communities BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Benae Freeberg, Chairperson Colfax Elizabeth Thiele, Vice-Chairperson Great Bend Andrea Haugen, Secretary Lidgerwood/Wyndmere Joy Bang Rollag Carmen Marohl Mooreton

Cheryl Hackey Abercrombie Lois Krautbauer Fairmount/Hankinson Terri Tschakert Kent Amy Bredman Barnesville



for more information


What do you see when you picture rural North Dakota? Perhaps a farmer stepping down from his tractor cab, gazing upon acres of outstretched wheat fields, or the silhouette of an oil rig emerging from the horizon. But what about a long-haired rocker-turned-guitar instructor teaching millions of musicians from his home in Kindred? Or a woman working to save the small-town newspapers across the state? While they may not come as quickly to mind when envisioning rural North Dakota, industries like music and media are rapidly becoming as integral to our state’s landscape as agriculture and energy. They are the New Rural, and they are powered by broadband. Reaching a Global Audience Steve Stine’s childhood home in Fargo was filled with music: his mother was an avid country fan, while his father gravitated toward rock. From a young age, Steve had an affinity for the great hair bands like KISS. “That’s what I wanted to do when I got older,” Steve said. “So my parents on my 13th birthday wound up buying me my first guitar.” By the time he graduated high school, Steve was teaching lessons to other aspiring musicians, mentoring as many as 100 students a week. He went on to study at Minnesota State University Moorhead and later taught at Red River Valley Academy, Elevate Rock School, and North Dakota State University, all while playing in a number of local and international rock bands.

“My videos are getting viewed all over the world, all the time,” Steve said. In 2015, Steve and his family moved 30 miles southwest of Fargo to Kindred, North Dakota. The 700-person town was a perfect fit and a welcome change for the Stines. They could enjoy a larger yard and more space to roam, build closer relationships with their neighbors, and enroll their two children in a smaller school system. There was just one hitch: Steve was already teaching online lessons, and he needed to be able to do so from his new home in rural North Dakota. “I do a lot of live-streaming webinars, guitar lessons, stuff like that, so it’s important that my video and my audio is not glitchy on the other side for whoever’s viewing it,” Steve said. “Having good broadband is absolutely imperative and it was a little bit worrisome for us moving to Kindred, whether or not we would have that capability.” A Story to Tell Jil Friesz didn’t always have a passion for journalism. She enrolled at the University of Mary in Bismarck intending to pursue a career in public relations; while there, she met a small-town farmer. The two married, and in 1996, moved onto a farm north of New Leipzig, North Dakota. Jill’s employment options were limited. Luckily, her husband’s best friend’s mom just so happened to work as a typesetter for the paper in nearby Elgin. “She quit her job so I could come and work here,” Jill said. “I started working here three or four days after we got married, worked here for eight years with the publishers and when they got ready to retire they said, ‘Do you want to buy the business?’ So that’s how it happened, and I took over the business 15 years ago.” Today, Jill is the owner of GS Publishing, the publishing house that prints and distributes the Grant County News as well as the Carson Press, Adams County Record, and Hettinger County Herald. CONT. ON NEXT PAGE


Today, Steve is teaching a much larger audience. As the face of GuitarZoom, an instructional website for which he leads beginner-level to advanced guitar classes, Stine has amassed what can only be described as a cult following: almost a million

subscribers across two YouTube channels. Steve has become one of the world’s most influential online music instructors and a mentor to some of music’s biggest stars, like pop sensation Shawn Mendes.

Red River Communications SPRING 2020


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We can really do anything that anybody else can do, especially now that we’re connected to the world.

- Jill Friesz



She’s on a mission to save small-town newspapers from going extinct: in the 15 years since Jill took over the Grant County News, more than one in five papers in the United States has shuttered. “Nobody else in the entire world cares who is the Homecoming King and Queen. Nobody else cares if your basketball team made it to second place,” Jill said. “There’s a lot of big stories around here. There’s a lot of people who have a story to tell. Nobody else is telling that story. That’s my job to get that out there to the community.” More Content, Faster


When Steve relocated from Fargo to Kindred with his family, he experienced frequent problems with his internet. Four hours worth of video content would take up to four days to upload. His connection would cut out altogether in the middle of a live stream, leaving hundreds of unsatisfied students behind. Desperate for a solution, Steve contacted his local internet provider

and Broadband Association of North Dakota (BAND) member, MLGC. “They actually put in a new fiber optic line for me,” Steve said. “They had to crawl up the telephone pole in the middle of winter and put in a new line and run it into our house. And ever since then we’ve had a really great relationship with everybody at MLGC.” The impact was immediate. With his new high-speed internet connection, Steve has not experienced a single interruption to his live lessons. Large video files that once took days to upload now take mere hours, allowing Steve to produce more content, faster. To Steve, MLGC’s willingness to go above and beyond to meet his connectivity needs—to install a fiber optic line in his yard in the dead of a North Dakota winter—was unheard of. But to President and General Manager Tyler Kilde, it was just one of countless examples of MLGC’s commitment to their customers. “We want to make sure that the rural

customers have the same type of access as metropolitan areas such as Minneapolis,” Tyler said. “This is a world economy, and the ability to have Steve reach tens of millions of people and reside in rural North Dakota, that’s huge.” News That Matters, When it Matters Over the past 15 years, Jill has witnessed a dramatic shift in the way newspapers operate. When she took over the Grant County News, her staff had to manually print, cut, and paste each individual article onto the makeup sheet—a delicate and timeconsuming task. Then Jill would take the makeup sheet, make a negative of it, and drive all of the negatives to the printing plant. Creating a newspaper was a day-long process, not including the actual reporting, writing, and distribution. But now, thanks to high-speed internet from local BAND member WRT, GS Publishing can create and distribute a paper in a fraction of the time.

Red River Communications is a proud member of BAND - The Broadband Association of North Dakota


The internet could be seen as the largest threat to print journalism, as more and more Americans are turning online for their news. But Jill isn’t running from the internet—she is using it to her advantage. To ensure that her neighbors have access to accurate reporting on the news that matters to them, Jill has increased GS Publishing’s online presence through social media and an electronic version of their papers.

They’re helpful to others. We always live by the ‘lend a hand and be a good neighbor’ mentality. North Dakota has always been that way.” Steve and Jill both moved to rural North Dakota from larger cities. Whether they moved for marriage or a better education for their children, it was these values—trust, kindness, and generosity—that made them stay. And with access to high-speed internet, they do not need to leave the rural communities they’ve grown to love in order to run their businesses.

“I’m able to do things that a lot of my friends that live in bigger cities can’t even do. They don’t have those speeds at their homes,” Steve said. “So for me it’s the perfect combination. I’m able to do what I do and send it out to the world yet maintain this relaxed environment of living in the rural community.” Jill agrees. “The sky’s the limit for us,” Jill said. “We can really do anything that anybody else can do, especially now that we’re connected to the world.”

Red River Communications SPRING 2020

“Broadband has completely changed the newspaper industry. I can lay everything out on the computer and all I have to do is click a button and it’s at my printer,” Jill said. “It has saved so much time for me...and it makes so many less mistakes in the newspaper”

“A couple of years ago, we had a very large equipment dealership fire in town. It happened to be the night of New Year’s Eve,” Jill said. “Through Facebook Live, I was able to get that out to our readers so people could watch that happen. I have used Facebook Live for basketball games, championships, things like that. Right now I’m using it for all of the breaking news that’s happening with the coronavirus. So it really has become essential for me to be able to do more day-to-day reporting than just the weekly reporting.“ In an era when access to timely, accurate news is more important than ever before, Jill is working day and night to keep her community informed. And with broadband from WRT, she is able to reach more readers, faster. The New Rural

“I’ve lived in a rural community my entire life,” said Troy Schilling, CEO and General Manager of WRT. “People here are friendly. People are trusting in ways, but they’re more than that.


The 16 member organizations that form BAND are making it possible for diverse industries, from music to journalism, to thrive in our rural communities. But even as North Dakota’s identity as a state is shifting, our values remain the same.


Red River Communications SPRING 2020

Gopher Control Program We’re finding ourselves at the beginning of gopher season. Gophers do thousands of dollars worth of damage to our fiber cable each year. So far this year we’ve seen a marked decrease in the number of gopher-related cuts due in large part to gopher control efforts.

we are asking that you please preserve the front feet of the gopher until a later date.

Our gopher control program will be continuing this year at a rate of $4 per pocket gopher trapped or caught within our service area. As our lobby is closed at the date of publication,

If you have any questions, please call 701-553-8309 or message our Facebook page.

We appreciate your support of this program and your assistance in keeping our fiber network safe.



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A number of our employees and board members have celebrated milestones so far in 2020. We appreciate each of their dedication to the Cooperative and to our members! CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS! 30 Years

25 Years

20 Years

15 Years

Kathy Bolme

Jack Plecity

Aaron Cook

Matt Ihland

Sr. Member Support Specialist

Director of Finance

OSP Network Technician

Director of Operations

15 Years

10 Years

5 Years

5 Years

Austin Hermunslie

Matt Kruize

Lisa Amundson

Dirk Monson

Network Administrator

OSP Network Technician

Plant Clerk

Member Support Mgr.

15 Years

10 Years

Harlan Deike

Board Member - Kent

Board Member - Great Bend


Gary Boutiette

PO Box 136 510 Broadway Abercrombie, ND 58001

GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR INTERNET CONNECTION! With our managed Wi-Fi service, we’ll make Wi-Fi work where you use it the most: the living room, kitchen, basement you name it!


Contact our office for complete details. $99 installation charge may apply.

The best part? We’ll keep your Wi-Fi working, updated, and running better than ever.










Monday-Friday 7:30am-4:30pm Note: Our lobby remains closed due to COVID-19

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