2021 MLGC Spring Newsletter

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Business Spotlight: Bear Creek Winery

With broadband from MLGC, Rod Ballinger has built a destination winery in the heart of the Red River Valley.

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Leading the Pack

In December 2020, MLGC made history as the first 5-Gig broadband provider in the state of ND.

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Tyler Kilde

President and General Manager


Tyler Kilde

We have all read, heard, or spoken those words so many times, it may feel like they have lost all meaning. But it is worth remembering just how much we endured over the course of twelve months. We witnessed unimaginable suffering, both around the world and in our own communities. We cancelled weddings, graduation ceremonies, and other milestones. We spent long, lonely weeks isolated from our family and friends. Here at MLGC, we also experienced personal loss with the passing of Ray Brown, our former owner and my father-inlaw. Ray was a pioneer in rural telecommunications, paving the way for many decades of innovation and growth. His passing is a loss not just for my family and for the larger MLGC family, but for the entire industry. Despite the many hardships and challenges we faced in 2020, everyone here at MLGC has so much to be proud of. Through it all, our crews worked day in and day out to continue bringing you the best internet, television, voice, and surveillance services possible. We made upgrades to our expansive fiber network (page 10) which enabled us to offer revolutionary 5-Gig internet

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for our residential customers. We are among the first broadband providers in the nation to make this blazing-fast speed widely available, allowing our neighbors to enjoy a smarter, more connected world using the many devices in their homes. And we have continued to invest in our local economy, providing businesses like Bear Creek Winery (page 4) the high-speed, reliable internet they need to thrive in rural North Dakota.

Despite the many hardships and challenges we faced in 2020, everyone here at MLGC has so much to be proud of.

2020 was a difficult year.

None of these successes can erase the very real trials of 2020. But I hope they can serve as a reminder of our promise to you, our customers: no matter how difficult life gets, MLGC will always be here to keep you informed and connected.

Tyler Kilde President and General Manager, MLGC

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Bear Creek

Winery With its sweltering summers and frigid winters, North Dakota may seem an unwelcoming place for a vineyard. But one man, Rod Ballinger, is working to challenge that assumption. “The grapes that are grown in this state here have the best flavor,” Rod said. “There’s no question. Our soil here is just incredible.” Rod and Sue Ballinger own and operate Bear Creek Winery in Fargo. Since 2003, Bear Creek has grown into

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a five-vineyard viticulture and enology research winery, complete with a tasting room and a golf course. It hasn’t been an easy journey, but with an innovative spirit and internet from MLGC, Rod and his family have created a destination that draws in local wine lovers and tourists alike. “People thought we were crazy at first,” Rod said. “It’s complicated and a lot of work goes into it, but when you finish a product and then you sell it at your bar and get to see someone’s reaction, it’s very rewarding.”

Withstanding the Winter Rod discovered his love for wine and viticulture while traveling the globe, first as a pilot for the U.S. Navy and

When Rod purchased the land that would later become Bear Creek in 1997, he knew that research would have to be a top priority in order to build a successful winery in North Dakota. Traditional varietals, such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, are not hardy enough to survive a sub-zero winter.

everything from picking grapes and bottling wine to decorating the tasting room and coordinating the many events and weddings that take place at the winery. Rod and Sue’s youngest son, Sean, has also taken on responsibilities at the winery, serving as the Vineyard and Tasting Room Manager. After

The most important thing about Bear Creek is that this is a familyrun winery. Owner of Bear Creek Winery

the North Dakota Air National Guard and later as a commercial pilot for Northwest and Delta airlines.

He has developed a program with local breeders to research and produce hybrid varieties that can thrive in North Dakota’s temperamental climate. In addition to cold-hardiness, they also test for disease resistance, sustainability, and of course, wine quality.

Visiting the wine capitals of the world gave Rod a unique perspective into the tastes and techniques that each region has to offer. There were the earthy Chiantis of Tuscany, the robust Cabernet Sauvignons of Napa Valley, the sparkling champagnes of, well, Champagne. Rod began to wonder: what if there was a wine synonymous with the Red River Valley?

“At the end of the day, the most important thing is that they produce a good tasting wine,” Rod said.

“I became intrigued with making wine, growing grapes, the science behind it,” Rod said. “I grew up on a farm, so the viticulture side of it fascinated me, too. So I put all those together, and decided to open a winery.”

“The most important thing about Bear Creek is that this is a family-run winery,” Rod said.

A Family Affair While Rod acts as the head winemaker and researcher, Bear Creek is far from a one-man operation.

Rod’s wife Sue manages the dayto-day operations on the property—

- Rod Ballinger

studying under his father for more than 10 years, Sean underwent rigorous training to become a sommelier in training and interned at the famous Cline/Jacuzzi Wineries in Sonoma, California before returning to Bear Creek. “He is really the most passionate one of all of us,” Rod said. “He grew up in the winery, surrounded by wine culture. So he got really passionate about the whole industry.” Family is everywhere at Bear Creek; not just in the people who make the winery tick, but in its location, its design, and its name. The family farm where Rod grew up, just outside of Verona, North Dakota, sat right on the winery’s namesake Bear Creek. The green barn, which serves as the centerpiece of the property, was built from blueprints of the Ballinger family’s 100-year-old barn. Everything about the building is an homage to

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- Rod Ballinger

Owner of Bear Creek Winery

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We’re a local winery…. so it’s important for us to work with a local provider.

Rod’s heritage—everything, that is, except the color. “The old barn was red, but I wanted to paint this one green,” Rod said. “My dad wasn’t too pleased about that.”

Keeping It Local With extensive research, support from his family, and plenty of patience, Rod has done what many would have considered impossible: established a thriving destination winery in the heart of the Red River Valley. But almost two decades after Bear Creek opened its doors, he had one more obstacle to overcome: access to the internet. “I really needed a reliable source of

internet for our business that was high-speed and wouldn’t be impacted by weather,” Rod said. “We’d been trying to get broadband out here for a long time, but other companies refused to come out here.” In the fall of 2019, Rod noticed an MLGC crew burying a line across the road from Bear Creek. He marched over to the crew, approached the foreman, and asked that they connect his business to the internet. “They said, ‘Sure. We’ll make a phone call,” Rod said. “And that very next spring, they trenched it into my winery and got me hooked up.” With high-speed, reliable internet from MLGC, Rod has been able to provide

a more enjoyable experience for all of his visitors—filling the tasting room with ambient music, live streaming tastings and educational events, and processing card transactions in a matter of seconds. MLGC immediately solved a unique problem by providing a booster, so that the entire 42-acre Bear Creek estate has access to highspeed internet. For Rod, working with a local provider like MLGC isn’t just about receiving reliable service. It’s about sticking to his Red River Valley roots. “When we have a local company based in Enderlin, we can make one call and there’s someone out here right away,” Rod said. “We’re a local winery. We try to keep it local every step of the way. We use local grapes and sell to local customers. So it’s important for us to work with a local provider.” MLGC is proud to support our local businesses, like Bear Creek Winery. Learn more at bearcreeknd.com.

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Emergency Broadband Benefit The Emergency Broadband Benefit is an FCC program to help families and households struggling to afford internet service during the COVID-19 pandemic. This new benefit will connect eligible households to jobs, critical healthcare services, virtual classrooms, and so much more.

About the Emergency Broadband Benefit

The Emergency Broadband Benefit will provide a discount of up to $50 per month towards broadband service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands. Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers if they contribute more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase price. The Emergency Broadband Benefit is limited to one monthly service discount and one device discount per household.

Who Is Eligible for the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program? A household is eligible if a member of the household meets one of the criteria below: •

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Has an income that is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or participates in certain

assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid, or Lifeline; Approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision in the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 school year; Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year; Experienced a substantial loss of income due to job loss or furlough since February 29, 2020 and the household had a total income in 2020 at or below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers; or Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income or COVID-19 program.

How to Apply There are three ways for eligible households to apply: 1. Contact your preferred participating broadband provider directly to learn about their application process. 2. Go to GetEmergencyBroadband.org to apply online and to find participating providers near you. 3. Call 833-511-0311 for a mail-in application

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Leading the Pack How MLGC has built one of the nation’s most robust fiber networks In December 2020, MLGC made history as the first broadband provider in the state of North Dakota—and one of the first in the nation—to bring 5-Gig internet to our residential subscribers. And this revolutionary speed is just the latest in a long history of advancements that have made our service territory one of the most connected in the country. The Institute For Local Self Reliance recently found that more than two-thirds of rural North Dakotans have access to fiber broadband, compared to less than 20 percent of rural residents nationwide. Rural North Dakotans are even more likely to have access to gigabit speeds than residents of some of the nation’s largest cities. North Dakota is charging ahead of the nation in connectivity, and MLGC is leading the pack. In 2020, MLGC was named the state’s fastest internet and cable provider among small operators by BroadbandNow. So how did a family-owned business in a “flyover state” build one of the best data networks in the United States? It

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didn’t happen overnight—it’s the culmination of more than a century of innovation and collaboration by pioneering North Dakotans.

Investing in Innovation MLGC has been leading the way in communications technology since 1906, when Moore & Liberty Telephone and Griggs County Telephone Companies were established in Enderlin and Cooperstown. The founders of those companies saw a need for their communities to be connected to the rest of the country, and when they realized that no national utility would build phone lines out to rural North Dakota, they took it upon themselves to get the job done. In the four generations since, MLGC has continued to propel our region forward by expanding to new communities and investing in cutting-edge technologies. We’ve adapted with the times, expanding from telephone to provide broadband, video, and surveillance services. In the 1980s, as internet providers across the country continued to rely on fallible copper cable, we spearheaded a movement to bring North Dakotans the fastest internet in the country by placing fiber in the ground.

Since then, MLGC has laid more than 1,100 miles of fiber optic cable across our region. Unlike traditional copper cable or DSL, fiber has virtually unlimited bandwidth and requires little to no maintenance. With fiber, speeds can be increased with just a simple software change—so when we decided to extend our offerings up to 5-Gig in 2020, the infrastructure was already in place.

over those years, from hand-cranked telephones to high-speed internet, one thing has remained constant: our commitment to connect our communities to the world by providing quality services at affordable prices.

For more than 110 years, we’ve continued to bring state-of-theart technologies to new communities not because it’s profitable, but because it’s the right thing to do.

For more than 110 years, we’ve continued to bring state-of-the-art technologies to new communities not because it’s profitable, but because it’s the right thing to do. While the technology we utilize has changed

MLGC and the 13 other member owners that form DCN have blanketed the state in a robust fiber optic network spanning more than 40,000 miles. (See map on page 12). Together, we have made significant investments in North Dakota’s fiber infrastructure— more than $100 million per year in fiber construction for each of the last five years. This spirit of collaboration between MLGC and the providers that make up these organizations has laid the groundwork for innovation in our state, paving the way for speeds like 5-Gig. As the needs of North Dakotans evolve, this infrastructure will also allow us to continue offering the fastest speeds and latest technologies ahead of our competitors.

We’ve expanded our footprint to serve as many North Dakotans as possible, with our most recent builds bringing fiber optics to the City of Davenport and several developments surrounding Kindred, including Braaten Addition, Evergreen Lane, Newport Ridge, Amber Plains/Round Hill, and Golden Lake.

Dakota (BAND) and the Dakota Carrier Network (DCN), two organizations working to expand access to highspeed broadband statewide.

A Spirit of Collaboration At MLGC, we recognize that we can all get further, faster by working together. That’s why we are proud to belong to both the Broadband Association of North

By collaborating with our neighbors and committing to innovation, MLGC has proven that you do not need to be from the largest city or the most populous state to create the best fiber network in the nation. You can do it right here, in rural North Dakota.

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North Dakota Fiber Map MLGC and the 13 other member owners that form DCN have blanketed the state in a robust fiber optic network spanning more than 40,000 miles. This spirit of collaboration has laid the groundwork for innovation in our state, paving the way for speeds like 5-Gig.

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WatchTVEverywhere! If you subscribe to MLGC TV or traditional Cable TV, you can watch MLGC programming at home or on the go with WatchTVEverywhere. This service allows you to stream your favorite channels and programming to your tablets, laptops, smartphones, Smart TV’s and other Wi-Fi or data-enabled devices, such as Roku, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire TV Sticks. To sign up, simply visit www.watchtveverywhere.com then select “MLGC” from the TV provider menu. Click on ‘register’ in the upper left-hand corner to create a FREE account, username and password. You will need the correct spelling of your last name and your MLGC account number which can be found on your MLGC monthly bill. (If you are a business, you will need to enter your full business name.) Once you have completed the registration process, you will need to check your email and click on the activation link. Note, that some network channels only work with certain platforms. So, if you are having trouble viewing a channel on a certain device, you may want to try another type of device. Also, some channels, such as ESPN or FSN may require you to download an app such as WatchESPN to view their programming. If so, you may be required to enter your MLGC WatchTVeverywhere login information.


(Scan for Frequently Asked Questions)

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MLGC CUSTOMER SERVICE REPRESENTATIVE How long have you been @ MLGC? I started in August of 2020. What is your job title and role @ MLGC? Customer Service Representative. I mainly assist customers who call or come into the office, but I help with many different things as needed.

What has been your favorite part of working @ MLGC? (its ok if

to? I have been lucky enough to travel a lot. One of my favorite trips was going to Ireland and Scotland on my honeymoon. I would love to visit Hawaii in the future.

If given a chance, who would you like to be for a day? My

you say the Coffee time :) My favorite part is the people! I gained a whole new family when I started working here. The coffee time is pretty great too!

Husband, so that I could try and understand him better!

What is the most interesting job you have had? I worked as a

golfing, spending time at the lake, a good book, and being with family.

but the one I say the most is “Do. Or do not. There is no try” – Yoda

waitress while I was in college. I had a lot of fun meeting so many different people and hearing their stories!

What are your top three life highlights? Getting married and

Best concert you’ve ever been to? That’s a tough one! I would have

Best vacation you have been to? Where would you like to travel

becoming a mom definitely top the list! The third highlight would probably be my honeymoon trip.

What are your hobbies and interests outside of work? I enjoy

What is your favorite line from a movie? I’m not sure if it is my favorite

to say either Old Dominion or Lady A.

Great Products, Great Partners Protect what you love and what you’ve worked so hard to build and create with a video surveillance system from MLGC. Whether it be for your home or business, we have what you need. Customize to your own situation and your own specific space and needs. We offer commercial grade, high-definition, best-on-the-market systems for both indoor and outdoor use. Not only can our systems withstand the North Dakota harsh winters, but they also come with professional installation and mobile friendly access to monitor your system anytime anywhere.

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Always ready to help you.

Online ticketing & tools Know what’s below. Tap click or call 811 before you dig. It’s Free!

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301 Dewey St, Enderlin, ND 58027 (701) 437-3300 www.mlgc.com

MLGC’s Dedicated Team Tyler


Joyce Brown Human Resources, Corporate Secretary, MLGC As you already know, Joyce is a community gem. She’s not only active in her church, civic duties, and makes sure the whole team at MLGC is behaving, but she gives Martha Stewart and Rachael Ray a run for their money in the kitchen! So we decided to highlight some of her favorite recipes in each issue of the MLGC SyncUp. Have you tasted one of her dishes at a potluck and are just dying to get your hands on one of her recipes, well shoot us an email at inthekitchen@mlgc.com.


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General Manager 19 years of Service


HR Manager 29 years of Service


Operations Manager 19 years of Service


Business Manager 23 years of Service


Billing & Customer Care Manager, Marketing 10 years of Service


Network Manager 1 years of Service


Network Customer Support 25 years of Service


Plant Manager (Enderlin) 49 years of Service


Plant Manager (Cooperstown) 24 years of Service


Project Manager 17 years of Service


Combination Tech 5 years of Service


Combination Tech 15 years of Service


Combination Tech 6 years of Service


Combination Tech <1 years of Service


Combination Tech <1 years of Service


Customer Service Representative 9 years of Service


Customer Service Representative <1 years of Service


Office Manager <1 years of Service

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