Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Fiber optics being extended to rural area

Workers employed by Tjader-Highstrom used a machine to plow fiber optic cable through a wet area along 110th Avenue last week. Twenty-five miles of fiber optic will be added north of Baldwin which will allow cable TV, telephone and internet access.

Baldwin Telecom, Inc. began a plan to extend fiber optic cable to an area north of Baldwin two weeks ago where the existing copper cable had reached capacity. The project will result in installation of 25 miles of fiber optics cable.

Fiber optics cable allows transmission of phone, internet and cable TV signals over one cable on a much higher bandwidth than is possible with copper cable. The 25 miles of new cable will be mainly in the Towns of Hammond and Baldwin, but some will also serve small areas of the Towns of Emerald and Erin Prairie.

Baldwin Telecom, Inc. (BTI) General Manager Larry Knegendorf said the area that will be served by the new fiber is centered on Pine Lake and extends mostly to the west and east.

The facilities in the area where fiber will be installed needed upgrading "and we didn't want to put copper back in the ground," said Knegendorf. He said the present copper service had reached capacity and "it's not capable of handling what's coming down the pipe as far as bandwidth. We're building for future needs. The old equipment isn't capable of providing cable TV."

Other rural areas in BTI's territory that are served by copper have not reached capacity and there are currently no plans to install fiber in other rural areas.

The successful bid for the project was by Tjader-Highstrom, Inc. of New Richmond for $971,000. The project involves about 25 miles of fiber optics that will pass 180 to 190 homes. Two weeks ago that company started with the most difficult aspects of the project-boring under roads and laying cable through swampy areas. In wet areas the fiber optics cable will be contained in plastic pipe and in other areas the fiber will be within an armored cable.

Knegendorf said the project is a bit delayed from original expectations because of high demand for fiber and other telecommunications equipment from areas that have suffered natural disasters and have infrastructure that needs to be replaced.

Fiber optic cable is being encouraged by the federal government, said Knegendorf, through the agency that lends to rural communications companies.

Fiber optics is more expensive than copper because of complicated installation to the homes, Knegendorf continued, although because of escalating metal prices copper wire now costs more than fiber optic cable. The much higher bandwidth of fiber allows more services to be provided.

BTI engineer Ken Carlsrud said expectations are that the 25 miles of fiber will be installed by this fall and "hopefully be up and running on October." He added, however, that completion is dependent on supplies and the weather.

Brad Mortel of BTI said that one nice feature of fiber optics for internet is that no modem is needed in the home and that "eliminates a potential point of failure."

The bandwidth of fiber optics is much larger than with copper and that allows for cable TV transmission. Matt Knegendorf said one advantage of fiber and cable TV is that the coming digital transition will be taken care of on the Baldwin Telecom end. He added that BTI's basic digital package includes 140 plus channels including the Big 10 network and the B-W and local access channels exclusively. Cable TV also doesn't suffer from rain fade and local channels are free in high definition. Another cable TV service is digital video recording.

Shaymein Ewer of Baldwin Telecom said fiber optics allows faster internet connections, more internet sites and more interactive sites. He added that one study found that fiber optics to the home increased the average home value by about $5,000.

New barber pole donated to "Kenny the Barber"

For the past several months vandals had been taking a toll on Ken Van Someren's barber pole. And about two weeks ago it had been completely smashed and broken. But now, thanks to an anonymous donor, a new barber pole graces the front of Ken's Barber Shop.

According to Ken's daughter Linda Booth, a man told her he wanted to replace the barber pole because he had been a customer of Ken's for many years and in honor of Ken being a veteran. But, he wanted to remain anonymous. So Linda ordered the new barber pole at a cost of $230. The man, upon hearing the cost, gave Linda $250, told her to keep the extra, shook her hand and offered thanks for Ken's service.

And, to make a good story better, the pole was replaced near Ken's 80th birthday, which was June 20, making a special birthday present.

Local campers aided search for autistic man

The successful and dramatic conclusion to the story of a 25-year-old autistic man who wandered from a camp and was found a week later after being lost in the woods has a local connection.

A group of seventh and eighth grade campers from Peace Lutheran was at Luther Point Bible Camp with Pastor John Hanson when the Shoreview, Minn., man wandered away on Sunday, June 15, from Trade Lake Camp, a camp for the developmentally disabled.

At Luther Point, the campers were allowed to volunteer for the search on Monday, June 16, but only if their Pastor was present and allowed the search and every two campers were required to be accompanied by a counselor or adult.

According to Shelby Weiske, daughter of Mike and Lisa Weiske who was among the campers from Peace Lutheran, about 200 campers from Luther Point helped with the search. About 15 of the searchers were from Peace Lutheran.

Keith Kennedy was found Sunday evening, June 22. He was suffering from a failing transplanted kidney, dehydration, hypothermia and was covered with ticks and bug bites. According to doctors, he was lucky to survive. His temperature was about 84 degrees when he was found.

At the height of the search hundreds of volunteers, law enforcement officers, firefighters and medics participated. He was finally found in thick brush on swampy ground next to a creek bed by a St. Paul firefighter. He was about a mile away from the camp he had wandered away from a week before.

The story of his sojourn will never be known since Kennedy can speak only four words.