Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Orr Internet almost online

Marcus White
Posted 12/12/18

ORR— Residents here and on the eastern shores of Pelican Lake will soon be able to access the Internet after the Orr City Council approved plans late last month to allow Back40 Wireless, a Jackson, …

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Orr Internet almost online

Posted

ORR— Residents here and on the eastern shores of Pelican Lake will soon be able to access the Internet after the Orr City Council approved plans late last month to allow Back40 Wireless, a Jackson, Minn.-based company, to deploy wireless broadband throughout the city.

“We have more bandwidth than potential customers in Orr,” company owner Troy Rasmussen said in an interview with the Timberjay.

The company, which until now has primarily served southwestern Minnesota, began in 2014. The company’s original goal was to provide Internet access out in rural farm fields where neither WiFi or cell phone data can typically be accessed.

Since then the company has moved into residential services and has been nearly tripling in size every year with about 1,000 current customers across seven counties.

“We’re a small family-based company,” Rasmussen said. “We pride ourselves on taking care of the customer and being accessible. We strive very hard to give customers what they pay for.”

The cost of the new Internet service in Orr will be $60 per month for speeds of six megs download and two megs upload. The company also requires an initial installation fee of $150 and customers will also need to have their own wireless router to be able to connect to the Internet. The $150 covers a radio hookup that is placed on the exterior of a customer’s house much like a small satellite dish. But rather than beaming signals from space, the signal will be coming from much closer— the Orr water tower.

The Internet signal itself is relayed through a broadcasting radio that is connected to one of Back40’s partners, CTC, out of Brainerd which provides the actual Internet signal.

Where other companies have been promising high speed Internet access to Orr for more than a year, Rasmussen has told city councilors the first customers will be online by the end of the year, with more to follow in the first part of 2019.

While the company’s base of operations, such as billing and phone support, will remain in Jackson, the company has brought on local resident John Paul Metsa to be its eyes, ears and face-to-face contact on the ground.

Metsa originally conceived of the program and asked Back40 to make the proposal earlier this fall.

Rasmussen said customers in Orr can expect a higher level of service than afforded by big telecommunications companies. He said whenever a customer has an issue they can call and speak with a real person without being put on hold for long periods of time.

He notes that the owners of the company post their personal cell phone numbers on the company’s website.

A customer can call at any time, even in the middle of the night, Rasmussen said, and talk with a real person.

While he admits the leap from the southwestern corner of the state to the far northeast is the largest geographic expansion the company has done, he said 90 percent of customers who have had problems in the past with equipment and signal can usually have most of their problems solved with a quick phone call. Metsa will come in for the 10 percent of calls that require a more hands-on approach, as well as serve as an in-person point of contact in the community.

As for the future, Rasmussen said if more customers sign up than the company’s initial radio transmitter can handle, it is a simple addition of more equipment to allow more people to access the network.

He also noted that the company is looking to expand beyond Orr, but exactly where, when or how is still very early in the planning stages.

More information on the new service can be found on the Back40 website at https://www.back40wireless.com/ or by calling 507-800-1836.

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