Wireless internet to the rescue? New tech could help close connectivity gap

Google stunned the internet world in 2016 by investing in wireless internet technology and scaling back on its plans to connect customers with fiber optic lines. Wireless advocates like Terry Nelson, Woodstock (MN) Communications' vice president and general manager, say Minnesota should do the same. "We see this as the solution," he said.

Nelson's company has built a wireless system using more than a dozen towers to cover most of two southwestern Minnesota counties. Other companies are doing the same in other parts of the state. Most state dollars still go to fiber-optic projects, but Nelson and other players in the wireless industry say they're ready to take on more of the funding pie. "We can reach out about 6 to 7 miles with our wireless internet," said Nelson, the company's vice president and general manager. "And we're picking up customers at 50-meg speeds. It's worked well for us."  But the best part of fixed wireless internet may be its cost. Nelson said fiber optic lines cost about $20,000 a mile to install. That's a big expense. But instead of running fiber lines to individual houses, Woodstock Communications' strategy is to run them to a wireless tower, and then use a radio signal to deliver the wireless internet to homes. With that approach, Nelson said, his company can connect homes to the internet with wireless at a tenth of the cost of fiber.


Wireless internet to the rescue? New tech could help close connectivity gap