Meeker Cooperative Light and Power Association held a dedication celebration for their VIBRANT Broadband high-speed internet service Thursday, Sept. 26, at its headquarters in Litchfield. Featured guests were Governor Tim Walz and former Rural Utility Service Administrator Ken Johnson. Walz campaigned on his goal of bringing broadband internet service to rural areas. Johnson signed the initial documentation approving the Co-op’s workplan for the fiber backbone to each Co-op substation, which allowed for the release of RUS loan funds for construction of the backbone. It is this fiber backbone that makes the build-out of the VIBRANT Broadband service possible.
Johnson congratulated the Co-op for all it’s done to bring broadband to the rural areas.
“You are changing the lives of members in the same way electricity did years ago,” he said. “In my 40 years of serving rural communities, I have seen what a difference broadband made in the retention of jobs. You are stepping out as a leader in the community.”
Governor Walz spoke about his goal of enhancing the rural communities through high-speed internet availability.
“Rural areas are not failed urban areas,” Gov. Walz said. “We have a quality of life that is unparalleled; a work ethic, strong schools, and a desire to be here. The only thing holding us back is connectivity.”
“Thank you for your leadership and optimism that is contagious,” Walz continued. “I lift you up as a model for the rest of the state.”
CEO/General Manager Tim Mergen spoke about the similarities of early farmers banding together to bring electricity to the countryside and now, more than 80 years later, that same vision and dedication will bring fiber-supported broadband to rural communities. He commended the Board of Directors for taking the risk to undertake the project.
“They’re the ones that took the risk to say, ‘yeah, let’s go ahead and move this project forward’, Mergen said. “They did what the board of directors did 84 years ago when the Co-op was formed to bring electricity into the area where we now serve. It was a great big leap of faith then, it’s a leap of faith now.”
As part of the dedication, Walz and Johnson were fitted with harnesses and lifted in two separate bucket trucks to a welded Minnesota sign with the word VIBRANT spelled across the state. Walz and Johnson plugged in the sign and lit the LED rope lights to enthusiastic applause from the crowd below.
Approximately 250 people enjoyed the dedication, which included Bingo, and a pancake breakfast provided by Chris Cakes.