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How Netflix Gets to your Home

How Netflix Gets to your Home - BAND

DCN, rural broadband providers, and the Open Connect Network

It’s that time of year again: temperatures are falling, leaves are turning, and all you want to do on a Friday night is curl up on the couch with a blanket, a bowl of popcorn, and a marathon of your favorite TV show. Thanks to Netflix, accessing all 234 episodes of Friends is now as easy as pressing play—but have you ever wondered how all that content gets to your home?

Netflix’s United States library alone holds more than 6,000 titles, and delivering this much content across the country depends on a reliable, high-speed internet connection. If you live in North Dakota, chances are the show or movie you are currently watching was brought to you by one of the 14 broadband providers that are owners of Dakota Carrier Network (DCN) and members of the Broadband Association of North Dakota (BAND).

Netflix holds 6,000 Titles

From the server to your screen, here’s how Netflix arrives in North Dakota homes.

Creating a Global Network

Netflix has evolved from a subscription-based DVD-by-mail service into the most influential video streaming service in the world, with the number of global subscribers increasing from just 4 million in 2005 to nearly 150 million in 2019. In order to keep up with its rapidly growing viewer base, Netflix has had to make drastic changes to the way it operates.

In the early years of its 4M-15M Global Subscribersstreaming services, Netflix owned and operated all of its own servers—but these servers simply could not keep up with the breakneck speed at which demand was growing. In order to deliver more content at faster speeds and lower costs, Netflix launched a content delivery network (CDN) called Open Connect in 2011.

A CDN takes content from an original source and copies it onto servers located all over the world. To establish this network, Netflix has reached out to internet service providers around the globe and provided them with Open Connect appliances to install in their data centers.

These small, rack-mountable boxes contain the Netflix content library, downloaded from the original Netflix servers. Now, every time you log in to Netflix, the app scans for a nearby Open Connect box. The content you request will be delivered by the Open Connect box nearest you, so your movie or episode can play at the push of a button.

Netflix in North Dakota

Netflix has Open Connect appliances in close to 1,000 locations around the world—in cities as large as New York, London, and Tokyo, as remote as the Amazon rainforest, and right here in North Dakota.

“Netflix reached out to DCN in 2014, when they noticed that the majority of subscribers in North Dakota were coming to Netflix through the DCN network,” said Seth Arndorfer, CEO of DCN.  “As a result of that, we have worked with Netflix to place a copy of the entire Netflix library in DCN’s data center in Bismarck as well as in Fargo.”

Before Open Connect, when you selected a movie from Netflix on your television in North Dakota, the app would need to request that content from Netflix’s main server in Chicago.

Content Delivery Network

“Think of it as a highway system, and the amount of time that it would take to get from Hettinger, North Dakota to Chicago,” Seth said. “Then, factor in the amount of traffic you would have to compete with to get there.”

On the information superhighway that is the internet, the farther away a piece of content is located, the more traffic you must compete with to reach it and the longer it will take to load—a phenomenon known as latency.

When it comes to streaming, latency means more buffering, low video quality, and a subpar experience for the viewer.

“Latency is a very important term in our industry. We want to have low latency in all applications,” Seth said. “That’s why we work with Netflix and

Netflix and the DCN Network

other content providers to get the content as close to the customer’s eyes as possible, so that the end user experience is as simultaneous as possible.”

Now, instead of travelling all the way to Chicago and back, your request is sent across the state to the Open Connect box in either DCN’s Fargo or Bismarck data centers. From there, the content travels along Dakota Central’s fiber and appears on your screen within milliseconds.

As more households complement their traditional TV viewing with streaming services, the decision to partner with Netflix on the Open Connect Network reflects DCN’s ongoing commitment to evolve along with the needs of North Dakotans.

Netflix and the Open Connect Network

“That’s really what DCN does,” Seth said. “We make investments in North Dakota that are highly technical and complex, but for an end user, it simplifies their life.”

Through this relationship with Netflix, the owners of DCN–North Dakota’s rural broadband service providers–and BAND members are able to deliver content to North Dakota homes at a higher quality and faster speed than ever before, so you don’t have to wait for your next episode of Friends to start.

Interested in getting the best streaming quality possible? Contact Dakota Central about upgrading your speed!

To learn more about BAND and your local broadband provider, visit www.broadbandnd.com.

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BAND: Caring for Communities Across North Dakota

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When Victoria Clair moved from Las Vegas to Williston, North Dakota in 2015, she was drawn to the easy-going pace of small-town life. Unhurried by the hustle and bustle of a big city, residents could take time to unwind, connect with the natural world around them, and form relationships with their neighbors. 

“We fell in love with the people here,” Victoria said. “They’re good, they’re kind, they’re involved, and it’s not such a rush.” 

But while Victoria enjoys the slow pace of her new small-town life, she needs the resources that her small business runs on to move quickly. As manager of Destiny Med Spa in Williston, Victoria relies on broadband offered by her local provider and BAND member, Nemont Telephone Cooperative, to communicate with patients and connect them with industry-leading health and wellness solutions.

“Because it’s high-speed, it gives us efficiency,” Victoria said. “We’ve experienced living in a rural area previously, and the internet there was unreliable because the infrastructure was old. And so we feel very blessed here because the infrastructure is new and up to date.”

Jerry Tilley, Chief Operations Officer of Nemont, recognizes that dependable, efficient internet is no longer a luxury, but a necessity—one that is not limited to major cities. For many years, as internet access expanded and improved in cities across the country, rural communities like Williston continued to be overlooked by internet service providers. That is where the member organizations that make up the Broadband Association of North Dakota (BAND) stepped in. 

“We serve, in many cases, areas that no one else really is interested in serving,” Jerry said. “We’re the ones that care about our friends and neighbors and communities.”

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Caring for your neighbor is just what North Dakotans do, and it is what sets BAND and our members apart from other providers. With 18 member companies delivering world-class telecommunication services across the state, BAND’s members ensure that their customers are able to communicate with and provide for their communities, regardless of population numbers or proximity to larger cities.

“The members of BAND have taken it very seriously to deploy fiber optic facilities throughout the state,” said Keith Larson, Chief Executive Officer of Dakota Central. “Thanks to the collective efforts of the BAND members, we’ve been able to be one of the most connected states in the U.S.”

Check out our “Care Everywhere” video to see the impact that BAND member companies are having on communities across North Dakota!

Caring for Our Communities 

Every day, the quality BAND Care Everywhere - pullquote2broadband provided by BAND and our member companies is used to improve the lives of North Dakota residents. “Care Everywhere” highlights just a handful of the ways that our customers are utilizing broadband to care for their communities.

The North Dakota E-Care School Health Program, a collaborative effort between Mid Dakota Education Cooperative and the North Dakota Department of Health, utilizes high-speed internet provided by BAND member SRT Communications to help students at rural schools access the healthcare they need. The program connects students with registered nurses via video call, while medical attachments called peripherals allow them to conduct exams and give recommendations about whether the student should stay in school, go home, or see a doctor for further testing.

According to Liz Tofteland, program manager for ND E-Care, something as basic as dependable broadband can mean fewer hospital visits and greater overall quality of life for students at rural and under-served schools.

That knowledge brings the entire community peace of mind.

“We wouldn’t have this opportunity for our rural schools to have actual RNs available to them throughout the day without our internet service,” she said. “To know that those kids are going to be safe gives us so much more comfort.”

While broadband access is making groundbreaking new programs like ND E-Care possible, it is also improving the services of long-standing North Dakota institutions. Kris Nitschke is the therapy operations manager at the Jamestown campus of the Anne Carlsen Center, a non-profit that has been working to make the world a more inclusive place by providing education and support for individuals with developmental disabilities for more than 75 years.

 High-speed internet access provided by BAND member Dakota Central allows Kris and her colleagues to deliver more services to more individuals. Kris has seen first-hand that impact that this has on the Center’s residents.

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“I am here because of the individuals we serve. They are amazing, amazing people and they teach me more every day,” she said. “Broadband can support them so they don’t lose the services. When you see them reach a goal more quickly it makes it all better and it makes for a joyous situation. You just get happy when they are happy.”

Committed to Care—Everywhere

Customers like Kris, Liz, and Victoria go to work every day because they care about the people they serve. It is not about money, or praise, but about making a difference in the lives of North Dakotans.

It is the same reason BAND members are devoted to delivering quality broadband to every corner of the state.

“Our heart is in the right place. I know there are folks who look at us as just another company trying to make a buck, but that’s not true,” Jerry Tilley said. “We do need to make money to stay in business, everyone does, but we are absolutely committed to doing the best we can and providing the best services for those that we serve.”

As BAND, we promise to continue delivering high-speed, reliable broadband across North Dakota so that our customers continue to focus on what matters: caring for their communities.

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To learn more about BAND and your local broadband provider, visit www.broadbandnd.com.

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Business Spotlight: The Full Monte

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Business Spotlight_The Full Monte“Go big or go home.” When asked about the story behind the name of the salon, The Full Monte, owner Ariel Cole explained how she wanted to tribute her dad, Monte, but also convey the idea that the salon provides a full service experience and that she’s “all in.” She wanted to go big or go home.

The Full Monte Salon located downtown Jamestown offers a full menu including hair services, lash extensions and lifts, massages, waxing, and manicures/pedicures. Ariel and her dad recently remodeled the historic building on 1st Ave North, which was an old pharmacy. Original elements were kept to add character to the space, including brick walls with old square nails still protruding.

Even though the space includes touches of art and history, the salon is not behind when it comes to technology. To make sure the business runs as smooth and efficiently as possible, The Full Monte has Voice and Data services, as well as the new Small Business Managed Wi-Fi package. With Small Business Managed Wi-Fi, Dakota Central provides the Security Gateway Router with Long-Range Access Points, which comes with support and firmware updates. A feature that is perfect for a business like The Full Monte, is the ability to add a Guest Network with a unique network ID and password. This network ID and password can be given out to employees or clients to use while in the salon. With the Guest Network, we are able to set a dedicated amount of bandwidth that doesn’t take away from the main business network. Therefore, as the business owner Ariel can rest assured that guests and employees aren’t taking up valuable bandwidth needed to conduct business, like credit card processing.

fullmonte-9Along with a variety of hair and cosmetic products for sale, The Full Monte also has regional art on display for sale, which will rotate monthly with new pieces and artists. Currently displayed is art from local artist Regina Roach, and next up will be individual art from Anne Carlson students. Ariel explained that the art displayed adds another element to the salon by supporting local artists, but also helps build a sense of community. She said one of her main goals when opening the salon was to add value to downtown Jamestown. In the future, Ariel would like to expand the services offered as well as hold small events at The Full Monte, including regular art gatherings to help build the Downtown Art Market events.

To learn more about the services offered, visit Vagaro.com/TheFullMonte. 

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Broadband: Breaking Barriers

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Work Smarter & Harder: DRN + Dakota Precision Fabricating Spotlight

Innovation is happening in rural communities across North Dakota. Some view Silicon Valley or Detroit as epicenters of technological and automotive engineering. Industries at one time separate from one another, but now colliding in new ways. That same innovation between tech and steel is happening right here in our rural communities.


Hilary and Shannon Mehrer run and operate Dakota Precision Fabricating, a metal fabrications manufacturer that provides services across the country, including the production of flood wall and structural metal materials, to those like NASA, BOEING, and the World Trade Center. 

2019-07 BAND Broadband Breaking Barriers Wireframe Graphics2Although they operate on a national scale, the Mehrers chose to grow their business from the small town of Forman, North Dakota.

“When we moved here, our boys were three and one,” says Hilary Mehrer. “We wanted a small school and we wanted them surrounded by family. That’s what brought us here.”

Having both grown up in small towns themselves, the Mehrers knew they wanted their kids to have a similar upbringing to their own. They grew up in a small, rural town where the school was a short walk away and the edge of town not that much farther. They knew when the evening whistle blew it was time to come home. Now, their kids run home upon hearing that same familiar call.

2019-07 BAND Broadband Breaking Barriers Wireframe Graphics3“When we moved here, our boys were three and one,” says Hilary Mehrer. “We wanted a small school and we wanted them surrounded by family. That’s what brought us here.”

Hilary also knew she wanted to continue growing her family business to a national scale. At first, the two goals — raising a family in rural North Dakota and growing a nationally competitive business — seemed to pose a challenge. Thankfully, by working with their local broadband provider, Dickey Rural Networks (DRN), they’ve been able to raise their kids in a rural town while operating a business at a national scale.

Dickey Rural Networks (DRN) is a broadband provider in Ellendale, North Dakota, and amember organization of the Broadband Association of North Dakota (BAND They provide broadband services to those in rural towns on the southeastern side of the state, like Forman, Kulm, and Litchville. 

“The resources that DRN provides helps support family, friends, neighbors, and small business by connecting them to the rest of the world,” says Kent Schimke, General Manager of DRN.

By working with DRN, the Mehrers have been able to access all the resources they need. By utilizing server management, security, voicemail, and other services offered by DRN, Dakota Precision Fabricating has been able to operate more efficiently, enabling them to better compete in a national market. Today, they regularly work with customers across the country; in fact, their latest project is a flood wall with LaGuardia airport in New York.

“Everything is streamlined,” says Shannon Mehrer. “We needed more services and Dickey Rural was there. They answered our questions and gave us their advice.”

For DRN, seeing customers and communities use their services and succeed in their business brings meaning to the work they do.

“It can be hard work to live in a rural community,” says Kent. “Family, friends, neighbors, and businesses support each other to be stronger. That’s what rural communities do.”

2019-07 BAND Broadband Breaking Barriers Wireframe Graphics4For a the Mehrer family and their business, working with a broadband provider that is local and understands their customers is what makes their small town community feel like home.it when other businesses understand their customers and support their communities.

“They’ve seen my face. I’ve seen theirs,” says Shannon. “We know each other. There’s a difference.”

To learn more about BAND and your local broadband provider visit https://www.broadbandnd.com/

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Dairy Innovation

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BAND equips Northern Lights Dairy for next-generation farming

Anytime you unwrap a stick of Land O’Lakes butter, you’re likely looking at a product made with Northern Lights Dairy milk. Northern Lights Dairy is a Grade-A dairy farm facility located just south of Mandan, owned and operated by the Holle family. Andrew Holle is a 4th generation dairy producer, and he lives there with his wife, Jennifer, their four kids, and over 725 milk cows.

Today, Northern Lights is a recognizable name and has found success selling milk to Land O’Lakes in Bismarck for many years. They’ve established themselves as innovators in the industry, utilizing the latest precision ag technology to optimize their operations. 

However, when Andrew and Jennifer first bought the farm 16 years ago, that kind of future was nearly impossible to imagine.

“It was just a shell of a dairy farm at the time,” Jennifer said. “Just the roof and the parlor. There was no infrastructure.”

At the time, the newlyweds had just graduated from college with degrees in Animal Science and knew they wanted to expand Andrew’s multi-generational dairy farm. When they heard of a foreclosed dairy farm not far from the family dairy in New Salem, they took a tour. Though it didn’t offer much, the 36-stall rotary parlor caught their eye. Besides, both of them had a passion for Precision Ag and AgTech. This was a chance to build a build a new, innovative facility from the ground up.

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It’s a commitment they implement to this day, Jennifer says.

“Our motto is to work smarter, not harder,” Jennifer said. “We’re constantly upgrading and implementing new technology. We always ask ourselves, ‘What can we use to make the cows more comfortable? How can we help our farm? How can we make it more successful?”

As the family began to grow their farm, an important need quickly emerged: a way to monitor the various aspects of their business. It was increasingly difficult to accurately monitor the cows, employees, and various stations — all crucial for running a smooth operation.

Their solution: a security camera system. 

“A camera system provides security for employees, helps with quality control, and gives you flexibility with time management,” Andrew explained. “In our industry there’s a lot of manual labor required. Being able to remotely monitor allows us to be more flexible and feel comfortable leaving the farm.”

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Their first attempt was a do-it-yourself system. They had high hopes that this would enable them to keep a close eye on their operation. However, they were soon fighting an uphill battle; poor quality cameras, metal buildings causing problems, and poor internet connection made the system more hassle than help.

They soon realized they’d invested a lot of time and money into a system that wasn’t working as they’d hoped. As their operation continued to grow, they needed help, and fast.

They found their answer with their local BAND member organization, WRT. They heard about the security camera systems that WRT offers and decided to give it a shot.

“We knew we were getting a quality system,” Andrew Holle said. “And there’s the added benefit of having someone there in person to install it, make sure it’s working right, and come back if needed.”

The results were instantaneous — literally. While WRT team members were installing the cameras, the Holles noticed a cow had tipped over in one of the pens. Curious how this happened, they were able to rewind the DVR recording and see that another cow had hit the other and knocked it down.

With over 725 cows, a method of surveillance is vital to the animals’ success. Monitoring each cow’s health and milk production are all part of maintaining a healthy herd. Thanks to WRT’s broadband services, they are able to use RFID tags as “Fitbits” for their cows; tracking their temperature, heart rate, eating, and sleeping habits, all to ensure they are in good health.

“Ever since WRT put in fiber, we’ve had no problems. Our activity collars are able to send data at a high speed, and we’re able to track each cow individually. It’s the best way to provide personalized care for each cow,” Jennifer said.

A quality surveillance system also helps them monitor the most crucial moment for a cow: when they’re born. As Calving Manager, Jennifer oversees an average of 3-4 births a day — and sometimes up to 15. The health of the calf at birth determines their health throughout their lifespan, she explained, and it’s a role she takes very seriously.

“We care about our animals,” she said. “This is what we do day in and day out because we love it. We don’t look at our cows as money-makers. They’re an extension of our family.”

Of course, although they love their work, running a dairy farm at this scale can be exhausting. In the early years, without a way to monitor the farm, the family was unable to travel far from home. With the security cameras in place, the Holles are now able to ensure their bovine family is well cared for, even from abroad. Now, they’re able to check in on their cows from anywhere; trade shows, visiting family, even during a well-earned family vacation to Cancun.

“I got up in the morning and checked on all the baby calves through my phone. Andrew could go into the milking system and see what our milk production was like that day, and check on the sick cows,” Jennifer said. “All while sitting on the beach with a drink in our hand.” 2019-07 BAND Dairy Wireframe Graphics4

Utilizing WRT’s technology is part of the Holles greater vision to create a successful and innovative dairy farm; one that puts animal care at the center and creates a safe environment for animals and employees alike.

“We rely very heavily on WRT and broadband. It really is priceless how much time we save by utilizing the security system,” Jennifer said. “If we didn’t have that kind of technology, we couldn’t be a successful farm.”

With how much technology has transformed the ag industry in the past decade, the Holles can only imagine what it will look like for the next generation. Already, their four kids — now 5th generation farmers — are learning a new, innovative way of farming. And while Jennifer never puts any pressure on any of them to one day take over their farm, she sees a particular affinity for the work in her 9-year-old son, Devon.

“He is his father’s shadow,” she said with a laugh. “He’s got the pens in his pocket, wears the same boots, and drives the payloader and the Bobcat.”

This is what Andrew and Jennifer love most — a business and lifestyle that allows them to grow, learn, and be together as a family while doing work that they love. They both know that no matter how technology continues to change the industry, the heart of why they do what they do remains the same.

“We do what we do because we love it. Come rain, snow, sunshine,” Jennifer said. “It’s hard to describe, because it’s so much a part of who you are. It’s not a job. It’s a livelihood.”

Learn more about BAND and how you can connect with your local BAND organization, at broadbandnd.com.

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From Maddock to Mcville: How NDTC is empowering a local company to serve the Midwest

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Work Smarter & Harder: NDTC + AgResources Spotlight

The collection of equipment at AgResources in Maddock, ND resembles an assemblage of Tinker Toys and Legos; red, yellow, blue and green tractors, old cars, lawn mowers, even a motorcycle or two are gathered in the garage ready to be repaired and shipped off. In front of the shop, shiny new tractors are assembled like soldiers for interested buyers to examine. 

“We serve farmers across the state and beyond,” says Amanda Johnson, bookkeeper, co-owner, and do-whatever-else-needs-to-be-done manager at Ag Resources. “It’s important for us to be able to communicate with our customers no matter where they are.”

Ag Resources was started by Amanda’s father-in-law,, Dave Johnson, in 1987. They sell new and used farm equipment to farmers across North Dakota and in the upper Midwest. As their business has continued to grow, their customer base has continued to expand from statewide to regional, to beyond. Yet, they continue to operate a business from their home-base in Maddock, ND — something that is very important for Amanda and her family. 

“I grew up in a small community,” says Amanda. “I married a small town guy, and we raised our kids here.”

2019-06-BAND-NDTC-Blog-Wireframe-Graphics2Amanda’s community is like an extension of her family. There aren’t residents or businesses in the town that she lives in, only family and friends.

“You go anywhere in this community and someone’s going to know you,” says Amanda. “It’s like a huge family.”

For Amanda, It’s important to have local businesses, like North Dakota Telephone Company (NDTC), that invest in her community and the people who live in it.

NDTC, located in Devils Lake, is one of eighteen broadband companies that make up the Broadband Association of North Dakota (BAND). NDTC has made it their mission to provide the people in their communities with great broadband services that are affordable. For many in these local communities, the broadband services that NDTC offers enables small-town businesses and schools to grow.

“When I call, they know me, and I know them,” says Amanda. “It’s nice to have that personal touch.”

NDTC provides residents and companies in rural communities with broadband that connects them with the rest of the world.

“Broadband has become so important,” says Rod Hoffmeyer, General Manager of NDTC. “If they lose their service they would have to close their doors. They wouldn’t be able to do their normal, everyday operations.”

For Ag Resources, the broadband service that NDTC provides does more than help them survive – it helps them thrive in a competitive market.

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“The service that NDTC provides helps keep our expenses down. We don’t have as much mailing or print advertising because we do it online,” says Amanda. “It’s allowed us to cut costs and be more competitive.”

For NDTC, it’s the relationships they make with their customers that makes it all worth it. 

“There is nothing better than knowing you’ve done your best and see in a satisfied customer,” says Rod. “It makes you feel proud when you have employees and customers who appreciate what you do.”

To learn more about BAND and your local broadband provider visit https://www.broadbandnd.com/

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Broadband & Baseball

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How Giants Snacks became the snack of
choice for every American baseball league

A few years ago, it was an otherwise ordinary afternoon at Giants Snacks in Wahpeton, ND, when the phone rang with an unknown number. Jason Schuler, a sales manager at the time, answered.
“Hello?”
“Hello, I’m a manager for the New York Yankees. We’d like to get some of your sunflower seeds for our dugout.”
Jason smirked and hung up. He knew it had to be some of his buddies pulling a prank. The number called again.
“Look —” Jason began.
“Sir, this really is the New York Yankees,” the manager said.
Jason froze. Then he laughed and apologized. A few weeks later, New York Yankees like A-Rod, Derek Jeter, and Kevin Brown were chewing Giants original sunflower seeds on the field. And they weren’t the only ones.

All hail, the North Dakota Giants

That was in 2004, and marked a time of exponential growth for Giants Snacks. They had recently been declared the official seed of the Minnesota Twins, thanks to a concerted effort from Jason, now Vice President of Sales. From there, they quickly gained a reputation as the best sunflower seeds around — in large part (no pun intended) due to their bigger-than-average variety of sunflower seeds (hence the name “Giants”).

“Other teams would come to the Twins’ stadium, try the Giants seeds, and then request them for their own dugout,” said Tom Spiekermeier, Operations Manager at Giants. “Today, we’re at the dugout of every league in the country. And that’s all through the player’s choice.”

Giants remains the official seed of the Minnesota Twins to this day, as well as the Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants. Over the years, they’ve also been the official seed of the St. Louis Cardinals and the Colorado Rockies. Regardless of whether they’re the official seed or not, Giants Snacks sunflower seeds can be found in every Major League Baseball dugout in America. Every year, the company ships out 2-3 pallets, or around 6,732 bags of sunflower seeds, to every home stadium across the country.

“So if you’re watching baseball and see the players chewing seeds — that’s Giants Snacks!” Tom said.

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Sunflower Socks

The origin of Giants Snacks is far more humble. The Schuler family traces it to generations ago, when a young man who was leaving Russia for America smuggled sunflower seeds in his socks — all the way to the Red River Valley. That man would eventually have a grandson named Jay Schuler, who sold sunflower seeds to snacking companies across the U.S. Meanwhile, fields of yellow sunflowers continued to grow and bloom across North Dakota.

Broadband-Baseball-Pull-Quote-2During Jay’s time working for the snack company, he found some of the sunflower seeds were larger and plumper than the others. These, he was instructed to ship overseas. Jay had a vision that these larger seeds could be popular in America — but none of the companies wanted to jump on board. 

“We were concerned about the consumer. They were concerned about their bottom line,” Jay Schuler said, in a Grand Forks Herald article about their story.

Finally, in 1995, Jay put a few of these large seeds in a bag and began selling them himself, calling them “Giants.” Over the years, these “Giants” continued to rise in popularity. Jay’s sons Jason and Robert joined the team in 1997 and 2002 respectively, and brought a renewed focus to the marketing efforts. When the Twins declared Giants their official seed in 2004, Giants seeds became a sought after snack.

Today, Giants Snacks continues to grow from their home based in Wahpeton, ND. There, they can remain in close proximity to the farmers producing the seeds and maintain quality control over their products. And, Tom adds, there are just good people out there.

“There’s a small-town mentality that people have,” he said. “That’s what I really appreciate about this area.”

Baseball & the Broadband Association of North Dakota

Of course, owning and operating a business that caters to customers across the country — and even a few around the world — demands certain resources in order to be successful. One of the most important pieces, Tom said, is having reliable internet. 

Broadband-Baseball-Photo-2Thanks to their local broadband provider, Red River Communications, part of the Broadband Association of North Dakota (BAND), Giants doesn’t have to worry about their rural location affecting their internet connection. BAND’s initiative, from the beginning, has focused on providing North Dakotans with quality broadband no matter where they are located, urban or rural. 

Through decades of concerted effort laying fiber and fighting for the right legislation, North Dakota is now one of the most connected states in the nation. In fact, many rural areas often have higher internet speeds than in major cities.

“Having quality broadband makes my job so much easier — it makes all of our jobs so much easier,” Tom said. “I don’t know how I would get by without it.”

Quality broadband allows Tom to use a technology platform that tracks every productivity line, runs quality checks, and gathers data, all on his iPad. They also use a security service that allows them to remotely monitor and control their entrances. More recently, Giants is also beginning to utilize automated machines to optimize their productivity. None of these tools would be possible without a reliable broadband connection, Tom said.

“We always try to ask ourselves, what can we do to be better? What can we do to be more efficient?” Tom said. “With these tools and data, I’m able to see which problems to focus on. It truly does help us to make a better product and run a better business.”

Innovate or Die

Giants Snacks also uses their internet to connect with consumers. With the rise of e-commerce, they’ve launched a brand new website (you can check it out here!) which has increased their online sales. They also interact with their groups of taste-testers via online groups, where they can fill out online surveys and provide market research on new products. Once new products are released, Tom and the Giants Snacks team are able to track feedback through customer reviews on the website, giantsnacks.com.

“Sometimes we have to nix a flavor and years later people are still asking for it,” Tom said, mentioning their top request right now is spicy garlic. “Sometimes they don’t get enough traction, and you have to know when to bite the bullet and move on to the next thing. Our online surveys and feedback help us know when to do that.”

Recently, the “next thing” for Giants was the release of two completely new product lines: pistachios and cashews. Both products are quickly gaining success, Tom said — although their most famous continues to be their famous Giants Original Flavor Sunflower Seeds.

“My personal favorite is bacon ranch sunflower seeds,” Tom shared. “We also just released a sour cream and onion pistachio, and they’re so good.”

With flavors, packaging, technology and every other aspect of their business, Giants Snacks is committed to staying innovative. Giants Snacks founder Jay Schuler often quotes a famed line from Gary Vaynerchuk: “If you don’t innovate, you die.” From the very early days of pitching larger sunflower seeds to consumers (and even further back, one might argue, to the innovative method of using a sock to transport seeds cross-country) — innovation runs in Giants Snacks roots. Equipped with quality broadband and technology, a quality home base in North Dakota, and a quality team of folks who understand agriculture and the beauty of a tasty sunflower seed, Giants Snacks is looking forward to continued success.

Epilogue

Last year, Lucy Spiekermeier, Giants Snacks Inc. General Manager, received a call from an unknown number. Like Jason years before, she was skeptical. She answered anyway.

“Hello, this is Giants Snacks Inc.?”
“Hello, this is the White House. We’d like to invite you to participate in Made in America Day,” the caller said.
Lucy hung up. Spam, she thought, shaking her head.
The phone rang again.
“Ma’am, this really is the White House,” they said.

Sure enough, a few months later, Lucy and another Giants Snacks representative found themselves heading to the White House with a custom designed American flag bag of sunflower seeds to show off the snack-of-choice for the players of America’s favorite pastime.

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Business Spotlight: Zen Sleep Consulting

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This issue’s Business Spotlight is unique, as it is a 100% online based business with no storefront. Zen Sleep Consulting is based out of Annie Schlecht’s home in Wimbledon, ND. One would think that the business of sleep consulting would require in-person meetings, and while Annie does consult with each client face-to-face, it is all done over video conference. Zen Sleep Consulting’s mission is to “help parents feel calm and confident in their ability to get their child to sleep peacefully throughout the night (zensleepconsulting.com).” A majority of Annie’s work is done with children, but she also works with adults. The goal is to create a plan that works with the family’s current dynamic including routines and values.

Annie is a mom of two young girls and a wife to Tyler, who works in the agriculture industry. As a busy mom and wife, it is important to Annie to do work that she loves, but also have the flexibility for her children, especially during her husband’s busy seasons. With her background in Occupational Therapy and past work experiences, Annie took a leap and started a sleep consulting business right from her home. Virtually all of the work she does is over the Internet. Annie says, “Having a reliable connection at our home has given me the freedom and flexibility to have the career I want without geographical limits.” With a reliable broadband connection from Dakota Central, she is able to connect with families from all over the globe. “It allows me to have clients all over the world, like Germany, Abu Dhabi, Japan, all across the US, as well as throughout the state.”

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A typical client interaction begins by the client initiation via website or social media. Then, via email, they will schedule a free 15-minute sleep assessment which happens over the phone. Here she will explain her services in more detail and learn more about the client’s needs. After the sleep assessment they will communicate more via email, and set-up a video consultation. This is where a consistent connection is vital. Annie explained, “If I don’t have a strong connection and the video buffers or disconnects, that reflects on my business and the perceived quality of service I provide. I want my clients to have a great experience every time, which means I need a dependable internet connection.”

So far, Zen Sleep Consulting is the first and only business of its kind in the state of North Dakota. “Dakota Central has helped me pioneer this line of work; I’m grateful to be able to provide this service right from home,” Annie said. With a dream and Fiber-to-the-Home, Annie is able to run a professional business while raising a family in rural, small-town North Dakota.

To learn more about services provided by Zen Sleep Consulting, visit www.zensleepconsulting.com.

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BAND: Building a North Dakota that Works Smarter AND Harder

Hilary Mehrer grew up like most North Dakotans– in a small town. She always knew when to come home. As soon as that evening whistle echoed through the town, she had better be walking through their door or she knew there would be trouble. And, if she wasn’t there, her parents always seemed to know where she was before she ever got home.

“That’s just the way it is in small towns– everyone knows everyone,” Hilary said. “You can walk through town and pretty much every house is someone you either know as a friend or family.”

Hilary knew she wanted her own kids to experience the same kind of community and closeness that she did. So when she married her husband Sean and they started a family of their own, they settled in the small rural town they do today.

For many North Dakotans, like Hilary, growing up in a small town is an experience they hope to pass on. The sense of community, the connection to the outdoors, and strong work ethic make it a place where many North Dakotans want to raise kids of their own. They want them to be able to go out and play in the streets and know when the noon and six o’clock whistle blows that it’s time to come home.

Of course, living in a rural area has its challenges, too.

Kent Schimke, General Manager of Dicky Rural Networks in Ellendale, acknowledges that the challenges of rural areas are overcome by the cooperative spirit of the community.

“It can be hard work to live in a rural community,” he said. “But that’s what rural communities do. We all support each other to be stronger and to continue to be able to live in those rural communities. The resources that BAND provides helps support those communities by connecting them to the rest of the world.”

BAND, the broadband association of North Dakota, was formed 65 years ago with a mission to bring top-of-the-line communication technology to the communities across North Dakota. That mission has transformed from telephone party lines to today, where high-speed internet has become a necessity. Today, BAND represents 18 members companies, each working to bring quality broadband to their customers — no matter if they’re in town, or 30 miles from town.

With the power of the internet at our fingertips, North Dakotans are now able to continue to live in the rural communities we love while building businesses, working remotely, and staying competitive in a global market.

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“The opportunities we can have in rural communities… they’re pretty much endless,” Kent said.

Of course, nothing is made possible without hard work — a value that has been ingrained in the culture of North Dakota since the first families settled and tended to the land. You’ve probably heard the common phrase, “work smarter, not harder.” But, we’re North Dakotans. We always work hard. We don’t know any other way.

The difference today, with the services of BAND and its member companies, is that North Dakotans can work smarter and harder; combining the strength of our work ethic with the resources of technology to make our businesses thrive.

Take a look at our video “Work Smarter and Harder” to see for yourself!

Impact in Our Communities

The stories that highlight the impact of broadband in our communities are all around us. In “Work Smarter and Harder” we hear just a few of these stories from towns like Epping, Forman, and Maddock, North Dakota.

Gene Vandeberg, owner Of Sandhill Performance Quarter Horses near Epping, North Dakota,  uses the services offered by Northwest Communications Cooperative (NCC) to take care of his horses. Before he had access to broadband that allowed him to check on is horses at night, Gene was often forced to get out of bed to go check on them himself.

 “I was lucky if I’d get 4 or 5 hours of sleep a night, and checking on the horses took up to 45 minutes,” he said. “Now, I can look at the cameras to check on the horses, and I can be done in 10 minutes.”

Sixteen miles away in Forman, North Dakota, Hilary and her husband Shannon run and operate  Dakota Precision Fabricating, a metal fabrications manufacturer that provides services across the country to customers such as BOEING and NYC’s LaGuardia Airport. With a growing business and a growing family, the services from their local broadband provider, Dickey Rural Networks (DRN),  allows them to remain to have the best of both worlds.

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Quality broadband allows us to be competitive in a national market while staying in small-town North Dakota,” Hilary said.

For Amanda Johnson with Ag Resources in Maddock, the broadband services offered by the North Dakota Telephone Company (NDTC) allow her to conduct her work with farmers and those in the ag industry in a streamlined fashion, with quicker communication and better delivery service systems. Through the work that she does selling tractors and various farming equipment to farmers across the state, she is empowering farmers to work harder and smarter, too.

“With broadband, it makes our job easier to help farmers be better stewards of the land,” Amanda said.

Building a Better Future with BAND

These stories are why the work of BAND matters. Through our efforts to advocate and empower North Dakotans with quality broadband, BAND is keeping rural communities connected with the world.

And what does this mean?

It means North Dakota families like Gene’s, Hilary’s, and Amanda’s, can run a thriving business while enjoying the rural lifestyle they love and raising their kids with the values they cherish. Values like caring for your neighbor. Being kind. And of course, working hard. As the future continues to bring us further and faster into an age of technology, it’s more important than ever that we work harder — and smarter, too.

To learn more about BAND and your local broadband provider visit www.broadbandnd.com.