Happy New Year!
From all of us here at InterBel, we hope that you had a happy, healthy holiday season and that your 2022 is off to a fantastic start. Winter is known as a time to look ahead–to set goals and make resolutions for the upcoming year. I believe that it is equally important to look back and reflect on the progress made and lessons learned in the past year.
For InterBel, 2021 was a year of unprecedented growth and investment, both in our technology and in our community. I am excited to share a few highlights with you.
Some of the most exciting progress made this year has been in the expansion of our fiber network. In 2009, we began the process of equipping our entire incumbent local exchange carrier (ILEC) territory with Fiber to the Home. That construction is finally complete, putting InterBel on the verge of becoming a Gig-certified provider. Over the course of this project, we have been able to provide fiber access to more than 3,000 homes across northwestern Montana.
That’s just one of the many fiber milestones we reached in 2021. We also broke our own records for new services, with more than 170 added to our network over the past year. We completed construction on our West Kootenai route, spanning 46.9 miles, and our southern route, adding another 34.5 miles. Additional in-town construction surpassed 25 miles.
We also extended service to our neighbors to the North, providing transport fiber to the United States-Canada border crossing, and received long-form approval on census blocks through the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF). Each of these accomplishments bring us one step closer to our goal of equipping the entire town of Eureka and surrounding rural areas with 100% fiber by the end of 2022!
In addition to expanding our fiber network, our team worked hard to improve our technology and provide our members with the best possible experience. We completed battery change outs at 14 of our CSA sites, ensuring that we can continue delivering quality service without interruption.
We implemented STIR/SHAKEN, a set of technical standards and protocols established by the FCC to eliminate annoying robocalls. We hope that this new system will provide our members with more confidence that the caller ID information they receive is accurate and allow us to provide helpful information about which calls to answer.
We also rolled out our Unified Communications system to nine area businesses, giving them the ability to receive any phone call that is made to their office no matter where they are, all with one easy-to-use mobile app.
As a cooperative, our job isn’t just about providing high-quality service at an affordable price. It’s about investing in the people and places that invest in us. I am proud to say that in 2021, our cooperative put thousands of dollars back into our community. We made donations in excess of $15,000 to local events and organizations, including the Rodeo, Riverwalk, Lions Spirit Pack, and Lincoln County Fair.
Investing in our youth is a crucial way that InterBel continues to better the places that we call home. In 2021, we contributed more than $25,000 in funds for education, serving groups like the Eureka Robotics Club, 4H, Annual Scholarship Fund, Shakespeare in the Park. We also continued our work to provide broadband for students learning from home during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Finally, we consider ourselves very fortunate to be able to give back to our community, and we recognize that not all of our neighbors are so lucky. That is why we earmark $5,000 in our cooperative’s budget every single year to support community members in need.
Looking back on all of these milestones, I am overwhelmed with pride for the work we’ve put in and gratitude for all of the people–including you–who have made it possible. I can’t wait to see what we can achieve together in 2022!
General Manager, InterBel