GRM Networks has received approval from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service and is preparing to begin fiber-to-the-premise construction this spring in the rural Bethany and rural Princeton exchanges. Customers can anticipate construction crews and equipment in their area over the next several months once construction begins.
This project’s funding stems from the November 2019 $41.6 million grant/loan awarded to GRM Networks by the USDA ReConnect Program. “Once we were awarded the grant/loan, we immediately began working with state and federal agencies to secure permits and approvals for construction,” said Dirk Schwartzkopf, Director of Plant Operations at GRM Networks.
GRM Networks ultimately received environmental approval to begin the project in November 2020. “We didn’t expect the approval process to be this lengthy,” said Schwartzkopf. “We had hoped to have construction underway in 2020.”
Contractors heading up the construction are MasTec, and H&D Underground, and both are Minnesota-based. MasTec is headquartered in Shevlin, and H&D Underground is from Sleepy Eye. MasTec will bury the fiber for rural Bethany customers, and crews from H&D Underground will bury the fiber for customers in rural Princeton. “MasTec and H&D Underground are both underground utility contractors specializing in the installation of telecommunications utilities,” said Schwartzkopf. Employees of both construction companies will have their company’s name on their vehicles. While construction could begin as early as March, the actual start date depends on Mother Nature’s plans. “The ground must be thawed before we begin, as this will lessen our construction footprint,” said Schwartzkopf.
Engineering contractor Vantage Point Solutions, working on behalf of GRM Networks, will soon be working in these areas to prepare these locations for fiber-to-the-premise upgrades. Residents can expect to see machinery such as cable plows and boring rigs. Throughout the construction process, GRM Networks strives to return all disturbed areas to their original condition.
“Vantage Point Solutions engineers, representing GRM Networks, have begun contacting customers in those exchanges at their homes or businesses,” said Schwartzkopf. “If the customer is not available, a door hanger is left alerting them that contact was attempted.” Customers receiving door hangers are urged to call GRM Networks at the local phone number listed on the door hanger to avoid interruption to their telephone or Internet service.
“The installation of this fiber network will bring symmetrical transmission rates capable of up to 1 Gigabit per second to customers in these exchanges,” said Ron Hinds, CEO of GRM Networks. “As we physically build fiber to these exchanges, we are simultaneously working behind the scenes to fulfill our pledge to bring fiber access to our entire service area.”