Fiber fixes everything!
PPCS launches SwiftCurrent high-speed internet
“Fiber Fixes Everything.”
President and CEO Nate Boettcher wore a button boasting that phrase Wednesday, July 14 as Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services unveiled its plans to start offering high speed internet service. By fall, residents in rural parts of Pierce County will start to learn all about the fiber fix.
Phase one construction starts in September 2021 and will offer service starting from the southern areas of River Falls branching down into Beldenville and areas in all directions around Ellsworth. Phase 1 of SwiftCurrent Connect Broadband Powered by PPCS will bring high speed fiber internet to 1,500 homes and businesses over 175 miles.
It’s an ambitious undertaking. Future plans are to put in 800 miles of fiber to serve all communities in the cooperative service area.
SwiftCurrent Connect will offer three different packages of high-speed internet with packages starting at $69.95. Residents can log onto swiftcurrent.coop to learn more and to see if internet is available in your area.
The ceremony to announce SwiftCurrent was forced indoors at the PPCS facility outside of Ellsworth because of heavy, muchneeded rainfall. Boettcher joked that they’d hold a ceremony again in a week, so more rainfall will come. Boettcher said the ambitious fiber initiative is a credit to the dedication of the PPCS Board of Directors and staff.
“I want to say thank you to our board of directors,” he said. “They’re taking a monumental step here allowing our staff to proceed forward. In fact, this conversation really started about a year
Photo by John McLoone.
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ago, and if it hadn’t been for the support of our board saying, ‘Go research this. Go figure this out.’ We wouldn’t be here today.”
PPCS’ initiative is also made possible by Wisconsin Public Service Commission grant money to help get highspeed internet to rural areas. The need was especially highlighted this past year, with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing school districts to online learning and people to work from home. That brought SwiftCurrent planning to the front burner.
“I didn’t ever see us getting into broadband,” Boettcher admitted to the large crowd assembled for the event, including PPCS members and business and community leaders. “It’s a really tough endeavor. I think all of the conversations we’ve had with the community leaders, many of you in this room, it became very, very apparent we had to do something to help our members out.”
Boettcher singled out board chairman Roger Wiff, who owns a trucking business in Spring Valley, for being an impetus behind SwiftCurrent.
“You know it’s been far too long that our communities have given lip service to the fact that a lot of our service area has lousy or non-existent internet service. Several things have aligned to let us at Pierce Pepin go forward with a plan to remedy this,” said Wiff.
He said the SwiftCurrent project is reminiscent to the start of the cooperative.
“I think back to the brave group of souls who in the late 1930s decided that they would never get electricity if they didn’t do it themselves. They decide to organize the cooperatives so that they can control their own destiny and went forward with a plan to electrify the rural areas of Pierce and Pepin counties,” said Wiff. “Today, we’re launching our SwiftCurrent Connect broadband service in the hopes that we can help our members live better, by being able to telecommute, remote learn or have access to telemedicine and countless other activities possible with fast, reliable internet. The last 16 months have shown us what happens when students don’t have access to learning.”
The “Fiber Fixes Everything” button was courtesy of Paul Bauer, CEOof the Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery and president of the Ellsworth Area Chamber of Commerce.
“Fiber fixes everything. Why? It’s permanent. It’s scalable. It’s here for the duration. So why are we here today? We need good access for rural communities and for businesses to succeed,” said Bauer.
Pierce County Economic Development Director Joe Folsom has been visiting township meetings in the county to ask them to dedicate COVID-19 relief aid toward expanding broadband for their residents.
“I’m really excited today because it seems like every time we start talking about broadband, the first thing you want to do is study it and study it. What’s exciting today is we’re executing, thanks to the hard work and leadership of Pierce Pepin Cooperative Service,” said Folsom.
A map showing the initial phase of the SwiftCurrent endeavor was a popular stop at the close of the ceremony.
“This is going to be a gamechanger,” said Ellsworth Community School District Superintendent Barry Cain.
Submitted by Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services
Photo by John McLoone