Red Lake Nation News - Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

By Laurie Swenson
Bemidji Pioneer 

Paul Bunyan Communications to return $2.5 million to members


Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Aidan Spaech, right, was one of 10 Cub Scouts from Troop 32 that helped families carry their meals at the 55th annual Paul Bunyan Communications Community Celebration fish fry Wednesday evening. He is shown helping Sue Johnson and her granddaughter, Olivia Peterson, 5, carry their meals. Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts from other troops were also on hand helping

Paul Bunyan Communications will return about $2.5 million to members in 2011, PCT Chief Financial Officer Dave Schultz said Wednesday afternoon at the cooperative’s annual meeting.

“We had another fantastic financial year,” he told members in a tent near the PBC building.

The profit return to members will come from the remainder of the 1999 capital credits and 20 percent of credits from 2010, he said.

Operating margins for 2010 were at about 5.3 million, slightly higher than 2009, he said.

I believe we are in a great position to not only survive in the future but thrive in the future,” General Manager Paul Freude told members.

Along with the annual meeting, Paul Bunyan Communications held its annual Cooperative Celebration, highlighted by a fish fry featuring walleye prepared by the Bemidji Fire Department Fish Fry Crew. The cooperative had expected about 7,000 people.

Musical entertainment for both adults and children was also featured, along with appearances by Dora the Explorer and Cat in the Hat. A children’s area featured face painting temporary tattoos and balloon sculptures. Headwaters Science Center had a booth with a bubble station as well as opportunities to visit with a blue-tongued skink, a legless lizard, a corn snake and a boa constrictor. Tennis lessons were held through the U.S. Tennis Association’s Quickstart Tennis Program.

The best part of the celebration was Dora, according to Kiera Smith, 6, and her friend, Azalea Clark.

“This year we definitely had to come, for Dora,” said Ashley Dahlke, Azalea’s mother.

“We always come here,” said Sean English, whose family was one of many who opted to sit in the grass on a beautiful spring day rather than try to find room at a table.

English and his fiancée, Jessica Mellema, ate their fish dinner with their children, Lily Ann, 4; twins Zachary and Hailey, 3; and 8-month-old Bailey. Lily Ann said she loves Dora and that she also liked seeing Grover last year.

Annual meeting

The largest number of Paul Bunyan Communications customers is in voice services, the cooperative’s oldest service, which has more than 20,000 customers and provides 60 percent of total revenue, Freude said during the annual meeting, for which 92 people registered.

The cooperative has about 18,500 Internet customers, nearly 89 percent of whom receive high-speed services.

Freude said per-megabit connection charges are rising and customers are using more bandwidth, leading larger carriers to enact bandwidth caps for Internet customers.

“Paul Bunyan Communications has not been forced to go down this road,” he said. “Perhaps someday we will.”

Television services are utilized by about 14,000 customers, 80 percent of whom have access to all television services through the cooperatives fiber-to-premises network. That leaves 20 percent who remain on an aging, copper-based network and cannot get high-definition channels and DVR service.

Freude said work continues to progress well on the fiber network. Solway, Puposky, Turtle River and Ponemah are next on the list and the network will be complete with the addition of Blackduck in 2012.

“The network of the future will be able to deliver 3-D TV and whatever comes next,” he said.

Cooperative President Kathy Peterson talked about changing times in technology, noting surveys that show 85 percent of children have their own phones and 67 percent own books.

“As a former teacher, that scares me,” Peterson said, adding that she hopes the ones who don’t have books still read on e-book readers such as the Nook or Kindle, or tablets such as the iPad.

Peterson said that Paul Bunyan Communications is growing with technology, but remembers its history as well.

“As we move ever faster in an ever-changing world, sometimes we have to look back, she said, noting that as people use their cordless phones, watch cable TV, surf the Internet and even use cell phones, “remember all this is possible because Paul Bunyan Telephone laid the groundwork.”


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