Building Rural Broadband From the Ground Up

When John Reigle found out he couldn’t get the telephone service he was promised to his new home and home-based business in rural Northeast Michigan, he decided to take a bold step. He started his own telecommunications company.

In the 1990’s, Reigle relocated to rural Northeast Michigan with assurances that the nearby telephone provider would connect his new home. After his home was built, he learned that connecting the location—like many other homes in the area—was impossible. Surrounded by forests, lakes, and farms, with few towns and no major cities, the area was completely cut off, lacking even resources to make 911 emergency calls. The area was considered “unassigned” a spot where no telecommunications company attempted to connect. Recognizing that his problem was shared by hundreds of residents across four counties, Reigle pioneered his own solution. He started Michigan’s first non-profit telephone cooperative.

Working with Michigan State University, Northeast Michigan Council of Governments, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and USDA Rural Development, Reigle founded Allband Communications Cooperative. Allband began with the mission of delivering phone services to the area, but as the technology advanced, broadband Internet became a priority. Allband was incorporated in 2003 and wasted no time beginning construction of a fiber network in 2005 and using funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to expand the fiber network and reach more residents. Allband now serves approximately 800 customers across four counties in Northeast Michigan: Alcona, Alpena, Oscoda, and Montmorency.

“It became Allband’s mission to serve these unserved residents,” said Loren Sampson, Marketing Communications Coordinator for Allband. “For bigger companies, there’s no return on investment in rural areas like ours.”

Besides covering the rural expanse that other telecommunications companies balked at, Allband also offers fiber Internet with state-of-the-art speeds. New businesses have been able to start in the area and more people can work from home. Allband serves Northeast Michigan’s widespread population, as well as vacationers.

“Members have the benefit of being able to work from home,” said Sampson. “There are also cabins and seasonal people here who can now stay longer and t invest more in our community, in our stores, gas stations, and restaurants.”

As Allband continues its pioneering success in rural Michigan, the company sticks to its founding mission; helping unserved areas get connected. Allband has donated high-speed broadband to three churches in small towns that lack service, giving residents a central location to connect.

To learn more about Allband, visit their website at Allband.org.

 

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