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A Year in Review

By Executive Director Blog, Feature Story

From the Desk of the Executive Director

A Year in Review

It’s hard to believe a year has passed since I first took on the role as Executive Director of the BAND.  In some respects, I feel as though I have been doing this for years, in others, I still feel like a newbie.  One of the first things I remember thinking when I took on this job is that we joined the broadband race with a head start, thanks to those who came before us.  My predecessor and those who managed the member companies, laid the foundation for what we have today.  I have the honor and privilege of sharing our stories, promoting our business and building relationships.  The buildout is almost complete, the networks are robust and policies have be put in place to allow our businesses to grow and thrive.  Now it is time to secure these networks for the future generations, promote our rural communities as great places to live and work, and make sure nothing stands in our way to being the first fully connected state.  We have done so much in our first year that it would take multiple posts to include it all, so I decided to highlight a couple of my favorite experiences this year in my first blog post.

68th Legislative Assembly

During my first legislative session, I was able to see our lawmakers hard at work doing what they believed was best for the people of North Dakota.  We were able to secure the $45 million dollars for broadband buildouts in areas needing high speed internet access.  This funding was allocated to our state from federal sources for capital projects and we are happy it is going to build more broadband!   We want to be sure that no one is left “unconnected” in North Dakota, so that means building out to everyone!  The cost of this effort is high, but the benefits will be felt for years to come.  Thank you to all involved in this effort to secure funding to build out broadband to more people!

Foundation for Rural Service Congressional Broadband Tour

In August, we, along with the Minnesota Telecom Alliance, were given the chance to host 16 Congressional staffers from all across the United States.  We were given the task to teach them about what it takes to build high-speed networks in rural North Dakota and Minnesota.  Most of these staffers had never visited North Dakota before and yet, they chose to take this trip to learn about the rural broadband industry in our part of the country.

We wanted to make sure the staffers learned all about the status of broadband in these areas we serve and it was a privilege to be their host.  These bright and eager staffers asked great questions and were a pleasure to be around.   They were engaged in learning about our states, our high-speed broadband connectivity and our areas of concern.  Thank you to the FRS staff and board for choosing North Dakota for part of your tour.  Thank you to MTA for their great co-hosting; and lastly, thank you to BAND member companies DCN, Polar, Red River Communications, and MLGC for their active role in hosting these staffers.  I’d also like to thank the Grand Farm to the fantastic tour of their Smart Ag operation, Giant Snacks for a tour of their impressive facility and all the other volunteers, donors, and speakers for their time and efforts.

Our Work Isn’t Done Yet

It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the members of the Broadband Association of North Dakota during this first year.  I’m proud of our members and the great work they are doing across this state.  It makes my job of telling their stories even more rewarding.

Our members continue to build broadband to those areas left behind, because if we don’t bring high-speed Internet to all the rural areas of North Dakota, who will?  We don’t have the population desity for big name companies to bring high-speed Internet to our state.  We need to take care of ourselves and our neighbors, which is why we are working so hard to get high-speed Internet to every corner.  We are North Dakota based; North Dakota proud; and besides, it is just the right thing to do…

Building the Nation’s Best Broadband Network—Together

By Education, Feature Story

The Broadband Association of North Dakota

Building the Nation’s Best Broadband Network—Together

In 2021, internet providers like Comcast and Sparklight have announced plans to expand their fiber networks and deliver gigabit speeds to rural communities across the country. 

For the Americans who are just now receiving access to fiber internet, this technology is life-changing—affording them faster-than-ever connectivity to family, friends, and the world. But for thousands of rural North Dakotans, it’s old news. 

While big, out-of-state broadband providers are making a big deal about starting to bring fiber to rural communities, the local members of the Broadband Association of North Dakota (BAND)  have already done it. 

Over the past 68 years, BAND members have invested millions of dollars, empowered one another, and embraced the tenacious work ethic that North Dakotans are known for. Together, we’ve built the most robust fiber network in America—and now, customers like you are reaping the benefits. 

When you sign on for service with your local BAND member, you receive more than just internet. You benefit from the shared resources, knowledge, and unparalleled infrastructure that have been built over nearly seven decades.

Laying the Groundwork for Innovation

The work to bring fiber broadband to rural North Dakotans began in 1953, long before the directors of nine North Dakota telephone cooperatives could have imagined what the internet would one day become.

Those original members joined forces to expand high-quality, low-cost telephone service across North Dakota. At the time, most 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. While the technology that we have used to communicate has evolved over the past six decades, our mission—to ensure the highest quality communication technology is accessible to all North Dakotans—has not wavered.

In 1996, this commitment led 16 BAND member companies to form the Dakota Carrier Network (DCN), a high-speed, large-capacity fiber backbone. Today, locally-owned providers serve 97 percent of North Dakota’s geographic territory, offering internet speeds of at least 1 Gig in over 300 rural communities. We have laid over 40,000 miles of fiber across the state, connecting businesses, residents, and schools with internet speeds 100 times faster than the national average.

Collaboration between the member organizations that make up DCN and BAND has laid the groundwork for innovation in our state and served as inspiration for rural networks across the country. In 2021 alone, the member organizations that form BAND and DCN have made extraordinary strides to connect more North Dakotans to fiber.

In August, Polar Communications in Park River received $4 million from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to continue expanding their broadband network in Walsh and Grand Forks counties.

This fall, DRN celebrated the grand opening of their Casselton office as part of their strategic plan to expand service in eastern North Dakota.

Each of these milestones has been made possible because a group of telephone cooperatives realized, more than half a century ago, that they could get farther by working together.

While some of the biggest names in broadband are just beginning to deploy fiber to rural communities, the 16 members of BAND are already working toward the future—accelerating speeds up to 5 Gig, 10 Gig, and beyond. Because when you work hard, and work together, the possibilities are endless.

That’s the power of connected collaboration. That’s the power of BAND.

Dairy Innovation

By Feature Story

BAND equips Northern Lights Dairy for next-generation farming

Dairy Innovation

Anytime you unwrap a stick of Land O’Lakes butter, you’re likely looking at a product made with Northern Lights Dairy milk. Northern Lights Dairy is a Grade-A dairy farm facility located just south of Mandan, owned and operated by the Holle family. Andrew Holle is a 4th generation dairy producer, and he lives there with his wife, Jennifer, their four kids, and over 725 milk cows.

Today, Northern Lights is a recognizable name and has found success selling milk to Land O’Lakes in Bismarck for many years. They’ve established themselves as innovators in the industry, utilizing the latest precision ag technology to optimize their operations.

However, when Andrew and Jennifer first bought the farm 16 years ago, that kind of future was nearly impossible to imagine.

“It was just a shell of a dairy farm at the time,” Jennifer said. “Just the roof and the parlor. There was no infrastructure.”

At the time, the newlyweds had just graduated from college with degrees in Animal Science and knew they wanted to expand Andrew’s multi-generational dairy farm. When they heard of a foreclosed dairy farm not far from the family dairy in New Salem, they took a tour. Though it didn’t offer much, the 36-stall rotary parlor caught their eye. Besides, both of them had a passion for Precision Ag and AgTech. This was a chance to build a new, innovative facility from the ground up.

It’s a commitment they implement to this day, Jennifer says.

“Our motto is to work smarter, not harder,” Jennifer said. “We’re constantly upgrading and implementing new technology. We always ask ourselves, ‘What can we use to make the cows more comfortable? How can we help our farm? How can we make it more successful?’”

As the family began to grow their farm, an important need quickly emerged: a way to monitor the various aspects of their business. It was increasingly difficult to accurately monitor the cows, employees, and various stations — all crucial for running a smooth operation.

Their solution: a security camera system.

“A camera system provides security for employees, helps with quality control, and gives you flexibility with time management,” Andrew explained. “In our industry, there’s a lot of manual labor required. Being able to remotely monitor allows us to be more flexible and feel comfortable leaving the farm.”

Their first attempt was a do-it-yourself system. They had high hopes that this would enable them to keep a close eye on their operation. However, they were soon fighting an uphill battle; poor quality cameras, metal buildings causing problems, and poor internet connection made the system more hassle than help.

They soon realized they’d invested a lot of time and money into a system that wasn’t working as they’d hoped. As their operation continued to grow, they needed help, and fast.

They found their answer with their local BAND member organization, WRT. They heard about the security camera systems that WRT offers and decided to give it a shot.

“We knew we were getting a quality system,” Andrew Holle said. “And there’s the added benefit of having someone there in person to install it, make sure it’s working right, and come back if needed.”

The results were instantaneous — literally. While WRT team members were installing the cameras, the Holles noticed a cow had tipped over in one of the pens. Curious how this happened, they were able to rewind the DVR recording and see that another cow had hit the other and knocked it down.

With over 725 cows, a method of surveillance is vital to the animals’ success. Monitoring each cow’s health and milk production are all part of maintaining a healthy herd. Thanks to WRT’s broadband services, they are able to use RFID tags as “Fitbits” for their cows; tracking their temperature, heart rate, eating, and sleeping habits, all to ensure they are in good health.

“Ever since WRT put in fiber, we’ve had no problems. Our activity collars are able to send data at a high speed, and we’re able to track each cow individually. It’s the best way to provide personalized care for each cow,” Jennifer said.

A quality surveillance system also helps them monitor the most crucial moment for a cow: when they’re born. As Calving Manager, Jennifer oversees an average of 3-4 births a day — and sometimes up to 15. The health of the calf at birth determines their health throughout their lifespan, she explained, and it’s a role she takes very seriously.

“We care about our animals,” she said. “This is what we do day in and day out because we love it. We don’t look at our cows as money-makers. They’re an extension of our family.”

Of course, although they love their work, running a dairy farm at this scale can be exhausting. In the early years, without a way to monitor the farm, the family was unable to travel far from home. With the security cameras in place, the Holles are now able to ensure their bovine family is well cared for, even from abroad. Now, they’re able to check in on their cows from anywhere; trade shows, visiting family, even during a well-earned family vacation to Cancun.

“I got up in the morning and checked on all the baby calves through my phone. Andrew could go into the milking system and see what our milk production was like that day, and check on the sick cows,” Jennifer said. “All while sitting on the beach with a drink in our hand.”

Utilizing WRT’s technology is part of the Holles greater vision to create a successful and innovative dairy farm; one that puts animal care at the center and creates a safe environment for animals and employees alike.

“We rely very heavily on WRT and broadband. It really is priceless how much time we save by utilizing the security system,” Jennifer said. “If we didn’t have that kind of technology, we couldn’t be a successful farm.”

With how much technology has transformed the ag industry in the past decade, the Holles can only imagine what it will look like for the next generation. Already, their four kids — now 5th generation farmers — are learning a new, innovative way of farming. And while Jennifer never puts any pressure on any of them to one day take over their farm, she sees a particular affinity for the work in her 9-year-old son, Devon.

“He is his father’s shadow,” she said with a laugh. “He’s got the pens in his pocket, wears the same boots, and drives the payloader and the Bobcat.”

This is what Andrew and Jennifer love most — a business and lifestyle that allows them to grow, learn, and be together as a family while doing work that they love. They both know that no matter how technology continues to change the industry, the heart of why they do what they do remains the same.

“We do what we do because we love it. Come rain, snow, sunshine,” Jennifer said. “It’s hard to describe because it’s so much a part of who you are. It’s not a job. It’s a livelihood.”

Learn more about BAND and how you can connect with your local BAND organization, at

With Gig, You Can Do It All

By Education

Stream HD video, work from home, even immerse yourself in entertainment.

With Gig, You Can Do It All

Gigabit Internet may seem impossibly futuristic, like flying cars or robot pets, but it’s already here, in our communities.

Across North Dakota, local broadband providers are offering Internet speeds of one gigabit, or one million bits, per second—that’s one hundred times faster than the average Internet speed in the United States.

Gigabit Internet isn’t just faster; it’s more reliable, has lower latency, and offers matching upload and download speeds.

So what does all of this mean for you? Consider how much of your life revolves around the Internet: you use it to work, learn, entertain, shop, communicate, bank, and more. With gig, you can do everything you already do online, but faster and with higher quality.

What Can You Do with Gig?

Stream high-quality video. Whether you’re streaming Game of Thrones or your grandson’s graduation ceremony, with gigabit Internet, you can expect higher quality video without annoying buffering or lags. But the most exciting improvement in terms of video is that you will be able to stream ultra-high definition 4K video at the same speeds as a typical 1080p stream, despite requiring up to five times as much data.

Work from home. These days, more of us are working from our home offices than ever before. And while gigabit Internet is not essential for working successfully from home, if you rely on collaboration tools or frequently need to transfer large files, gig fast upload speeds will allow you to get more done in less time.

Keep in touch. Speaking of working from home: we’ve all been on a Zoom or Skype call where someone’s video keeps cutting out, making it impossible to make out what they are saying. This isn’t just frustrating; it can put a strain on personal and professional relationships that rely on these virtual connections. Gigabit Internet allows for smoother, higher resolution video calls, so you can lead that big meeting or chat with your long-distance friends without interruption.

Online game. With gig, you can work hard AND play hard. Thanks to matching upload and download speeds, the online gamers in your household will never have to worry about losing a game due to a laggy connection again. 

Explore new, immersive media. When we say “gaming,” we’re not just talking about Fortnite and Animal Crossing anymore. Gigabit Internet’s faster upload and download speeds will make immersive media, like virtual and augmented reality, more accessible from home.

Backup your data. From family photos to financial documents, there is so much data on our devices that we don’t want to lose. Traditionally, backing up that valuable data has required external hard drives which can be damaged or misplaced. Gig Internet makes it more convenient to store your data with cloud backup services, like Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive, that you can access from anywhere at any time. 

Support multiple users and devices simultaneously. Say you want to stream your favorite show while your kids are playing video games upstairs and your spouse is on a video call preparing for an important business meeting. Something’s got to give, right? Not with gig. Perhaps the most exciting feature of gigabit Internet is the ability to support your entire household, and their devices, all at once.

These are just a handful of ways that gigabit Internet can make your online life faster, more convenient, and more reliable. But in order to enjoy all these advantages and more, you’ll need technology that can support such blazing speeds. Just give us a call, and one of Dakota Central’s tech experts will set you up with the right equipment.

Ready to experience the future of Internet speeds today? Contact us at 952-1000 or 652-3184 to learn what gig can do for you!

Caring for Communities Across North Dakota

By Feature Story

The Broadband Association of North Dakota

Caring for Communities Across North Dakota

When Victoria Clair moved from Las Vegas to Williston, North Dakota in 2015, she was drawn to the easy-going pace of small-town life. Unhurried by the hustle and bustle of a big city, residents could take time to unwind, connect with the natural world around them, and form relationships with their neighbors.

“We fell in love with the people here,” Victoria said. “They’re good, they’re kind, they’re involved, and it’s not such a rush.”

But while Victoria enjoys the slow pace of her new small-town life, she needs the resources that her small business runs on to move quickly. As manager of Destiny Med Spa in Williston, Victoria relies on broadband offered by her local provider and BAND member, Nemont Telephone Cooperative, to communicate with patients and connect them with industry-leading health and wellness solutions.

“Because it’s high-speed, it gives us efficiency,” Victoria said. “We’ve experienced living in a rural area previously, and the internet there was unreliable because the infrastructure was old. And so we feel very blessed here because the infrastructure is new and up to date.”

Jerry Tilley, Chief Operations Officer of Nemont, recognizes that dependable, efficient internet is no longer a luxury, but a necessity—one that is not limited to major cities. For many years, as internet access expanded and improved in cities across the country, rural communities like Williston continued to be overlooked by internet service providers. That is where the member organizations that make up the Broadband Association of North Dakota (BAND) stepped in.

“We serve, in many cases, areas that no one else really is interested in serving,” Jerry said. “We’re the ones that care about our friends and neighbors and communities.”

Caring for your neighbor is just what North Dakotans do, and it is what sets BAND and our members apart from other providers. With 18 member companies delivering world-class telecommunication services across the state, BAND’s members ensure that their customers are able to communicate with and provide for their communities, regardless of population numbers or proximity to larger cities.

“The members of BAND have taken it very seriously to deploy fiber optic facilities throughout the state,” said Keith Larson, Chief Executive Officer of 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.”

Check out our “Care Everywhere” video to see the impact that BAND member companies are having on communities across North Dakota!

Caring for Our Communities

Every day, the quality broadband provided by BAND and our member companies is used to improve the lives of North Dakota residents. “Care Everywhere” highlights just a handful of the ways that our customers are utilizing broadband to care for their communities.

The North Dakota E-Care School Health Program, a collaborative effort between Mid Dakota Education Cooperative and the North Dakota Department of Health, utilizes high-speed internet provided by BAND member SRT Communications to help students at rural schools access the healthcare they need. The program connects students with registered nurses via video call, while medical attachments called peripherals allow them to conduct exams and give recommendations about whether the student should stay in school, go home, or see a doctor for further testing.

According to Liz Tofteland, program manager for ND E-Care, something as basic as dependable broadband can mean fewer hospital visits and greater overall quality of life for students at rural and under-served schools.

That knowledge brings the entire community peace of mind.

“We wouldn’t have this opportunity for our rural schools to have actual RNs available to them throughout the day without our internet service,” she said. “To know that those kids are going to be safe gives us so much more comfort.”

While broadband access is making groundbreaking new programs like ND E-Care possible, it is also improving the services of long-standing North Dakota institutions. Kris Nitschke is the therapy operations manager at the Jamestown campus of the Anne Carlsen Center, a non-profit that has been working to make the world a more inclusive place by providing education and support for individuals with developmental disabilities for more than 75 years.

High-speed internet access provided by BAND member Dakota Central Telecommunications Cooperative allows Kris and her colleagues to deliver more services to more individuals. Kris has seen first-hand that impact that this has on the Center’s residents.

“I am here because of the individuals we serve. They are amazing, amazing people and they teach me more every day,” she said. “Broadband can support them so they don’t lose the services. When you see them reach a goal more quickly it makes it all better and it makes for a joyous situation. You just get happy when they are happy.”

Committed to Care—Everywhere

Customers like Kris, Liz, and Victoria go to work every day because they care about the people they serve. It is not about money, or praise, but about making a difference in the lives of North Dakotans.

It is the same reason BAND members are devoted to delivering quality broadband to every corner of the state.

“Our heart is in the right place. I know there are folks who look at us as just another company trying to make a buck, but that’s not true,” Jerry Tilley said. “We do need to make money to stay in business, everyone does, but we are absolutely committed to doing the best we can and providing the best services for those that we serve.”

As BAND, we promise to continue delivering high-speed, reliable broadband across North Dakota so that our customers continue to focus on what matters: caring for their communities.

To learn more about BAND and your local broadband provider, visit

Broadband & Baseball

By Feature Story

How Giants Snacks became the snack of choice for every American baseball league

Broadband & Baseball

A few years ago, it was an otherwise ordinary afternoon at Giants Snacks in Wahpeton, ND, when the phone rang with an unknown number. Jason Schuler, a sales manager at the time, answered.


“Hello, I’m a manager for the New York Yankees. We’d like to get some of your sunflower seeds for our dugout.”

Jason smirked and hung up. He knew it had to be some of his buddies pulling a prank. The number called again.

“Look —” Jason began.

“Sir, this really is the New York Yankees,” the manager said.

Jason froze. Then he laughed and apologized. A few weeks later, New York Yankees like A-Rod, Derek Jeter, and Kevin Brown were chewing Giants original sunflower seeds on the field. And they weren’t the only ones.

All hail, the North Dakota Giants

That was in 2004, and marked a time of exponential growth for Giants Snacks. They had recently been declared the official seed of the Minnesota Twins, thanks to a concerted effort from Jason, now Vice President of Sales. From there, they quickly gained a reputation as the best sunflower seeds around — in large part (no pun intended) due to their bigger-than-average variety of sunflower seeds (hence the name “Giants”).

“Other teams would come to the Twins’ stadium, try the Giants seeds, and then request them for their own dugout,” said Tom Spiekermeier, Operations Manager at Giants. “Today, we’re at the dugout of every league in the country. And that’s all through the player’s choice.”

Giants remains the official seed of the Minnesota Twins to this day, as well as the Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants. Over the years, they’ve also been the official seed of the St. Louis Cardinals and the Colorado Rockies. Regardless of whether they’re the official seed or not, Giants Snacks sunflower seeds can be found in every Major League Baseball dugout in America. Every year, the company ships out 2-3 pallets, or around 6,732 bags of sunflower seeds, to every home stadium across the country.

“So if you’re watching baseball and see the players chewing seeds — that’s Giants Snacks!” Tom said.

Sunflower Socks

The origin of Giants Snacks is far more humble. The Schuler family traces it to generations ago, when a young man who was leaving Russia for America smuggled sunflower seeds in his socks — all the way to the Red River Valley. That man would eventually have a grandson named Jay Schuler, who sold sunflower seeds to snacking companies across the U.S. Meanwhile, fields of yellow sunflowers continued to grow and bloom across North Dakota.

During Jay’s time working for the snack company, he found some of the sunflower seeds were larger and plumper than the others. These, he was instructed to ship overseas. Jay had a vision that these larger seeds could be popular in America — but none of the companies wanted to jump on board.

“We were concerned about the consumer. They were concerned about their bottom line,” Jay Schuler said, in a Grand Forks Herald article about their story.

Finally, in 1995, Jay put a few of these large seeds in a bag and began selling them himself, calling them “Giants.” Over the years, these “Giants” continued to rise in popularity. Jay’s sons Jason and Robert joined the team in 1997 and 2002 respectively, and brought a renewed focus to the marketing efforts. When the Twins declared Giants their official seed in 2004, Giants seeds became a sought after snack.

Today, Giants Snacks continues to grow from their home based in Wahpeton, ND. There, they can remain in close proximity to the farmers producing the seeds and maintain quality control over their products. And, Tom adds, there are just good people out there.

“There’s a small-town mentality that people have,” he said. “That’s what I really appreciate about this area.”

Baseball & the Broadband Association of North Dakota

Of course, owning and operating a business that caters to customers across the country — and even a few around the world — demands certain resources in order to be successful. One of the most important pieces, Tom said, is having reliable internet.

Thanks to their local broadband provider, Red River Communications, part of the Broadband Association of North Dakota (BAND), Giants doesn’t have to worry about their rural location affecting their internet connection. BAND’s initiative, from the beginning, has focused on providing North Dakotans with quality broadband no matter where they are located, urban or rural.

Through decades of concerted effort laying fiber and fighting for the right legislation, North Dakota is now one of the most connected states in the nation. In fact, many rural areas often have higher internet speeds than in major cities.

“Having quality broadband makes my job so much easier — it makes all of our jobs so much easier,” Tom said. “I don’t know how I would get by without it.”

Quality broadband allows Tom to use a technology platform that tracks every productivity line, runs quality checks, and gathers data, all on his iPad. They also use a security service that allows them to remotely monitor and control their entrances. More recently, Giants is also beginning to utilize automated machines to optimize their productivity. None of these tools would be possible without a reliable broadband connection, Tom said.

“We always try to ask ourselves, what can we do to be better? What can we do to be more efficient?” Tom said. “With these tools and data, I’m able to see which problems to focus on. It truly does help us to make a better product and run a better business.”

Innovate or Die

Giants Snacks also uses their internet to connect with consumers. With the rise of e-commerce, they’ve launched a brand new website (you can check it out here!) which has increased their online sales. They also interact with their groups of taste-testers via online groups, where they can fill out online surveys and provide market research on new products. Once new products are released, Tom and the Giants Snacks team are able to track feedback through customer reviews on the website,

“Sometimes we have to nix a flavor and years later people are still asking for it,” Tom said, mentioning their top request right now is spicy garlic. “Sometimes they don’t get enough traction, and you have to know when to bite the bullet and move on to the next thing. Our online surveys and feedback help us know when to do that.”

Recently, the “next thing” for Giants was the release of two completely new product lines: pistachios and cashews. Both products are quickly gaining success, Tom said — although their most famous continues to be their famous Giants Original Flavor Sunflower Seeds.

“My personal favorite is bacon ranch sunflower seeds,” Tom shared. “We also just released a sour cream and onion pistachio, and they’re so good.”

With flavors, packaging, technology and every other aspect of their business, Giants Snacks is committed to staying innovative. Giants Snacks founder Jay Schuler often quotes a famed line from Gary Vaynerchuk: “If you don’t innovate, you die.” From the very early days of pitching larger sunflower seeds to consumers (and even further back, one might argue, to the innovative method of using a sock to transport seeds cross-country) — innovation runs in Giants Snacks roots. Equipped with quality broadband and technology, a quality home base in North Dakota, and a quality team of folks who understand agriculture and the beauty of a tasty sunflower seed, Giants Snacks is looking forward to continued success.


Last year, Lucy Spiekermeier, Giants Snacks Inc. General Manager, received a call from an unknown number. Like Jason years before, she was skeptical. She answered anyway.

“Hello, this is Giants Snacks Inc.?”
“Hello, this is the White House. We’d like to invite you to participate in Made in America Day,” the caller said.
Lucy hung up. Spam, she thought, shaking her head.
The phone rang again.
“Ma’am, this really is the White House,” they said.

Sure enough, a few months later, Lucy and another Giants Snacks representative found themselves heading to the White House with a custom designed American flag bag of sunflower seeds to show off the snack-of-choice for the players of America’s favorite pastime.

Building a North Dakota that Works Smarter AND Harder

By Feature Story

The Broadband Association of North Dakota

Building a North Dakota that Works Smarter AND Harder

Hilary Mehrer grew up like most North Dakotans– in a small town. She always knew when to come home. As soon as that evening whistle echoed through the town, she had better be walking through their door or she knew there would be trouble. And, if she wasn’t there, her parents always seemed to know where she was before she ever got home. 

“That’s just the way it is in small towns– everyone knows everyone,” Hilary said. “You can walk through town and pretty much every house is someone you either know as a friend or family.”

Hilary knew she wanted her own kids to experience the same kind of community and closeness that she did. So when she married her husband Sean and they started a family of their own, they settled in the small rural town they do today.

For many North Dakotans, like Hilary, growing up in a small town is an experience they hope to pass on. The sense of community, the connection to the outdoors, and strong work ethic make it a place where many North Dakotans want to raise kids of their own. They want them to be able to go out and play in the streets and know when the noon and six o’clock whistle blows that it’s time to come home.

Of course, living in a rural area has its challenges, too.

Kent Schimke, General Manager of Dicky Rural Networks in Ellendale, acknowledges that the challenges of rural areas are overcome by the cooperative spirit of the community.

“It can be hard work to live in a rural community,” he said. “But that’s what rural communities do. We all support each other to be stronger and to continue to be able to live in those rural communities. The resources that BAND provides helps support those communities by connecting them to the rest of the world.”

BAND, the broadband association of North Dakota, was formed 65 years ago with a mission to bring top-of-the-line communication technology to the communities across North Dakota. That mission has transformed from telephone party lines to today, where high-speed internet has become a necessity. Today, BAND represents 18 members companies, each working to bring quality broadband to their customers — no matter if they’re in town, or 30 miles from town.

With the power of the internet at our fingertips, North Dakotans are now able to continue to live in the rural communities we love while building businesses, working remotely, and staying competitive in a global market.

“The opportunities we can have in rural communities… they’re pretty much endless,” Kent said.

Of course, nothing is made possible without hard work — a value that has been ingrained in the culture of North Dakota since the first families settled and tended to the land. You’ve probably heard the common phrase, “work smarter, not harder.” But, we’re North Dakotans. We always work hard. We don’t know any other way.

The difference today, with the services of BAND and its member companies, is that North Dakotans can work smarter and harder; combining the strength of our work ethic with the resources of technology to make our businesses thrive.

Take a look at our video “Work Smarter and Harder” to see for yourself!

Impact in Our Communities

The stories that highlight the impact of broadband in our communities are all around us. In “Work Smarter and Harder” we hear just a few of these stories from towns like Epping, Forman, and Maddock, North Dakota.

Gene Vandeberg, owner Of Sandhill Performance Quarter Horses near Epping, North Dakota,  uses the 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 is 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 4 or 5 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.”

Sixteen miles away in Forman, North Dakota, Hilary and her husband Shannon run and operate  Dakota Precision Fabricating, a metal fabrications manufacturer that provides services across the country to customers such as BOEING and NYC’s LaGuardia Airport. With a growing business and a growing family, the services from their local broadband provider, Dickey Rural Networks (DRN),  allows them to remain to have the best of both worlds. 

Quality broadband allows us to be competitive in a national market while staying in small-town North Dakota,” Hilary said.

For Amanda Johnson with Ag Resources in Maddock, the broadband services offered by the North Dakota Telephone Company (NDTC) allow her to conduct her work with farmers and those in the ag industry in a streamlined fashion, with quicker communication and better delivery service systems. Through the work that she does selling tractors and various farming equipment to farmers across the state, she is empowering farmers to work harder and smarter, too.

“With broadband, it makes our job easier to help farmers be better stewards of the land,” Amanda said.

Building a Better Future with BAND

These stories are why the work of BAND matters. Through our efforts to advocate and empower North Dakotans with quality broadband, BAND is keeping rural communities connected with the world.

And what does this mean?

It means North Dakota families like Gene’s, Hilary’s, and Amanda’s, can run a thriving business while enjoying the rural lifestyle they love and raising their kids with the values they cherish. Values like caring for your neighbor. Being kind. And of course, working hard. As the future continues to bring us further and faster into an age of technology, it’s more important than ever that we work harder — and smarter, too.

To learn more about BAND and your local broadband provider visit

Building up Broadband: How BAND makes life easier in rural America

By Feature Story

How BAND makes life easier in rural America

Building up Broadband

In the winter, it’s quiet out at Feil Farms. The 3,500-acre farm is 20 miles northwest of Langdon, far from the hustle and bustle of town. Sean Feil grew up here watching his grandfather and father work the land, growing barley and wheat. Later, they would start planting canola, and years later, soybeans. Each day was spent outdoors, and each day was different. Sean couldn’t imagine any other life.

“I enjoy being outside,” he says. His voice is low, thoughtful. “Being your own boss. Watching the crops grow each year.”

It’s a familiar lifestyle to many families in rural North Dakota, where agriculture is the leading revenue-producing industry and accounts for about one-fourth of the state’s economic base. From Williston to Wahpeton, this is the heart of “America’s Breadbasket,” where we value the art of working the land. In fact, 39.1 million acres — nearly 90% of North Dakota’s land area — is in farms and ranches.

And yet, what does living in rural America look like in a world that is growing increasingly connected? What does it look like in a post-dot-com society where the internet is no longer a nice-to-have, but a need-to-have?

Questions like these are why in 1953, a group of North Dakota telephone cooperatives had the forethought to band together to keep North Dakota connected. They met at the Patterson Hotel in Bismarck, with a mission to guard against unfavorable legislation and ensure the highest quality communication systems would remain available across North Dakota.

They had no idea how much would change.

This committed organization has ebbed and flowed through a revolutionary era of communication. At the time of the association’s creation, a majority of rural North Dakota residents had party-line service, 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 found anywhere in the United States.

Today, 65 years later, this organization now serves North Dakota as BAND — the Broadband Association of North Dakota. And while so much has changed, their mission has not; to ensure the highest quality communication systems are accessible to all North Dakotans. Their hard work over the decades laying over 45,000 miles of fiber across the state has changed the lives of folks across North Dakota. Folks like Sean, and his family, on their farm in Langdon.

As Sean reflects on the broadband services he uses to sustain his farm, he shakes his head with a smile.

“My dad could have never imagined this,” he says.

Living in a rural area, Sean was used to not having a good connection from the farm to the ‘outside world’. The phone reception was choppy, and if he needed to look up equipment on the internet, he had to wait until he went back into Langdon. Every day, he said goodbye to his wife and kids and made the 20-mile drive to check on the farm. At night, he often lay awake worrying if the crop and equipment were safe — but he had no way of knowing.

That is until he brought up his challenge to his uncle, who works at United Communications, a member organization of BAND. He suggested Sean try out installing a wireless access point and a security camera system, to allow him to check on the farm remotely.

Sean was sold. With the help of United Communications, he installed four cameras throughout his farm. Now, Sean gets a text any time motion is detected by the sensors or the cameras, and can even see who it is. Everything is also recorded on his DVR, so he can rewind and review video footage if needed.

“I have a lot more peace of mind,” Sean said. “I don’t worry so much when I’m gone.”

In addition, his broadband provider dug fiber out to Sean’s farm and set him up with a wireless access point so that he now has a point-to-point internet connection throughout the yard. Now, he can keep up to date on markets, weather, and look up equipment parts right from the field. 

Far more important for Sean, however, is that he can spend more time with his wife Brittany, his 4-year-old daughter, his 3-year-old son, and their new 15-month-old little girl. Before, his frequent trips took time away from home. During busy season, when work requires him to stay overnight at the farm, he was forced to say goodbye and had little to no connection with his family. Now, with the broadband services from his local broadband provider, Sean is able to stay connected.

“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.”

For the 18 local broadband providers across North Dakota that make up BAND — this is why we do what we do. It’s stories like Sean’s that illustrate what it looks like to live in rural America today; how North Dakotans can enjoy the beauty of rural living while maintaining quality broadband and connection across the state. Serving the people of North Dakota is how it all started 65 years ago — and no matter where the adventure of communication services takes us, BAND’s mission will remain true for the next 65 years and beyond.

Learn more about BAND and how you can connect with your local BAND organization, at

Local Business, Global Impact

By Feature Story

How North Dakota broadband providers are making e-commerce possible this holiday season

Local Business, Global Impact

For many, the season’s first snowfall and the sight of twinkling lights hanging from the trees bring back memories of gazing through shop windows like little Ralphie in A Christmas Story, scanning the glittering displays of toys until your eyes finally land on your dream gift.

But much like Ralphie’s Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle, the tradition of window shopping has fallen in popularity over the years. Local and national retailers alike are placing a greater emphasis on online sales as more shoppers turn to the internet to find the perfect gifts.

The 2019 holiday season is projected to break online shopping records, with digital spending during November and December expected to reach $143.7 billion—up 14.1% from last year. To keep up with the ever-increasing demand for toys, books, gadgets, and devices delivered right to consumers’ doorsteps, businesses across the country, including right here in North Dakota, rely on the internet. 

Katie Skoog is the founder of Simple Life Pattern Company, an online shop specializing in PDF sewing patterns for women, girls, and babies. With support from high-speed internet provided by Broadband Association of North Dakota (BAND) member Polar Communications, Katie is able to compete on an international scale—all from the comfort of her home in rural Edinburg, North Dakota.

“I never in a million years thought I would be doing this,” Katie said. “I would have never expected to be able to make a very good living, support my family, and still be able to spend time with my kids, still make dinner, still go on camping trips in the summer. It’s pretty amazing to be able to do that from my home.”

From Passion to Profit

Simple Life Pattern Company began in 2015 with nothing but a computer, an idea, and a life-long passion for creating. 

“I have always been crafty. I grew up wanting to create things,” Katie said. “I wanted a project that I could create and finish in one day, so I decided to make dresses. After that, I started creating my own patterns and posting them on social media. I loved connecting with other like-minded people who encouraged me to keep creating.”

As Katie continued to post her designs on her personal social media channels, she discovered an opportunity to turn her passion into a profit. Her followers loved her designs, and several reached out to her saying they wanted to try the patterns themselves. 

Katie spent hours planning, teaching herself to draft using Adobe Illustrator, and researching online marketing tactics. As she anticipated the release of her first collection of children’s patterns, Katie launched a “fan” group on Facebook.

Within five minutes of its launch, the group had over 1,500 members

“When I first started, I thought Simple Life Patterns would just be a side hustle for me, a little hobby to help support my sewing projects,” Katie said. “After the initial launch, I realized this could be my career.”

After that launch, Katie hit the ground running with Simple Life Patterns. Her pattern offerings have expanded from just children’s garments to include designs for babies and women, and she continues to release new patterns every month. In the four years since that initial launch, Katie has added two more designers and a social media team to help promote the business. 

As Simple Life Patterns continues to grow, Katie is constantly developing new goals to expand and improve. And at the center of that growth has been the internet she receives from Polar, her local broadband provider.

“I’m not selling my patterns in brick-and-mortar stores, it’s all digital PDF downloads,” Katie said. “High-speed internet is crucial to my business. Without it, I wouldn’t have a product to sell.” 

Because her design team is spread across the country, Katie uses cloud-based programs to design her items, allowing them to share and collaborate on designs. All of Simple Life Patterns’ marketing is done online: posting video tutorials on YouTube, sending emails about upcoming promotions, sharing customer creations on Instagram. 

If the internet were to go down for even a minute, Katie’s business would come to a standstill. 

“If my internet goes down, I am losing money, and I can’t have that,” Katie said. “Having a local internet provider like Polar means that I don’t have to sit on hold for hours and wait for technicians to come fix it.”

With Polar as her local internet provider, Katie enjoys being able to connect with real people over the phone who can answer her questions and walk her through the steps required to resolve any issue in an instant—an experience that enables her to more efficiently run her business. 

Most importantly, Katie relies on the internet to communicate with her customers, whether they are down the street or across the globe. Simple Life Pattern Company currently sells PDF sewing patterns in countries worldwide, including Germany, Australia, Norway, Singapore, and more. 

“We’re not all in the same time zone, so having reliable internet allows me to respond to them instantly and for them to feel a personal connection,” Katie said. “They can ask any questions and get all of the sewing support they need just by sending a message on Facebook or Instagram. You don’t get that kind of connection with traditional paper patterns.”

Broadband: Making Holiday Dreams Come True

With the holidays fast approaching, Katie is in one of her busiest times of the year. Hundreds of sales are being placed every day by sewers hoping to design their own festive holiday outfits or create a customized gift for someone special in their life, and Katie needs to be able to access her website 24/7 to make sure orders are processed quickly. 

Luckily, she can count on Polar to keep her internet up and running when she needs it most.

“Getting in front of potential customers during the holidays is important,” Katie said. “The best part is seeing what everyone creates with our patterns. We have a fan group of 28,000 members and to see their holiday creations is so inspiring. I am proud to be a part of that.”

E-commerce businesses like Simple Life Pattern Company are making holiday dreams come true around the world. And thanks to rural broadband providers like Polar, it doesn’t matter how large or small your hometown is—all it takes to build a thriving e-commerce business is passion, hard work, and a high-quality internet connection.

“Running an e-commerce company is amazing, mainly because you can work on your own schedule, you make your own path, you can make as much money as you want if you put your mind to it,” Katie said. “Even in a small town, you can do it.”

Contact your local provider or visit today to discover how broadband can empower your e-commerce business!