MIDCO fiber optic internet goes live in Ely

Catie Clark

ELY – MIDCO, the newest fiber internet provider in Ely, announced the launch of fiber connections on Monday. The company, one of two fiber optic providers in the city, recently completed a two-year project to install fiber optic infrastructure across the city.
fiber optic expansion
“Our first customers got access to fiber Internet starting November 29, and we’re rolling out fiber to more customers every week through February,” said Tenille Manning Heier, director of corporate communications at MIDCO, in an email. “Ely residents will be notified as soon as they gain access to fibre.”
MIDCO plans to provide initial fiber connections to service groups of 60 to 120 homes on an ongoing basis.
“By Christmas we aim to make 1,000 connections,” said Cole Mack, MIDCO’s vice president of field engineering and construction, who works out of Bemidji. According to Mack, the company’s fiber coverage area covers 2,500 homes in Ely and Winton.
Existing customers will receive a notification that a fiber connection is available via their preferred communication channel with the company. MIDCO will also initiate a fiber availability marketing campaign for potential new customers.
To handle the anticipated volume of connections, Mack said, “We’re bringing in teams to do the work.” The teams are coming from other MIDCO offices in the northern Minnesota region to support the company’s Ely field force of three plus their manager to complete.
Improved service
The well-known service improvement of a fiber optic internet connection is speed.
“We currently offer plans for up to five gigabits per second (Gbps). Of course, most people don’t need those speeds,” Mack said. He added that many modems are not yet able to handle this maximum speed.
“Technology will catch up, but we built this network to last until the end of the century.”
In addition to higher speeds, the fiber optic service will offer a 100 percent high-density video service branded MidcoTV, as well as a “wireless home solution,” Mack noted, since the fiber optic modems that MIDCO can offer have a much longer range than legacy cable modems.
Mack said the unseen history of the service is MIDCO’s new “back-end” infrastructure, which has built-in redundancy: “(For the coax infrastructure) Ely was isolated. Because of this, we suffered service outages in 2019 and 2020. Since last year we have set up a new back-end network.”
MIDCO wanted outages to be a thing of the past. To accomplish this, the new network uses two leased fiber optic lines from the Northeast Services Cooperative, one up from International Falls and one up from Duluth. In addition to these two fiber optic cables, MIDCO has installed its own network equipment including all of its own fiber optic cables throughout Ely and the surrounding area.
“The big highlight is that there are now two paths for the internet into Ely,” Mack said. “Our equipment is redundant, so even if one fails (in Ely) the service will continue uninterrupted as it continues on the other line. The new network is also passive, which means that it does not depend on city power like the old coax lines. If there is a power outage in the city, we have our own electricity and local backup generators to keep the grid alive.”
future plans
While MIDCO will be offering fiber connections in the town of Ely this winter, the company will also continue to expand its fiber internet service area. “We will be expanding across the north side of Miners Lake in the spring and summer of 2023,” Mack said. Winton will also be included in the 2023 expansion.