Mining Journal Business Profile: Working to broaden broadband service

PFN critical to communication across Michigan

By Journal Staff

MARQUETTE — Peninsula Fiber Network might be the best kept secret in Marquette.

Or, as its General Manager Scott Randall puts it: “We occupy a very important role in telecommunications in the state of Michigan. Who would have thought a little company would end up with a critical role in communication?”

Just how critical?

Formed in 2004 by parent companies Baraga Telephone Company and Hiawatha Communications, Inc., Peninsula Fiber Network (PFN) is the chosen provider of NG911 services in 82 of Michigan’s 83 counties in the state of Michigan.

For example, it handles an average of 14,907 calls each day to 911. And each call is delivered to dispatch centers in a faster-than-lightning 4 milliseconds.

The ability to provide help when it was needed most needed was demonstrated earlier this year when the Lower Peninsula was battered by storms, including tornadoes.

“We processed more than 5,000 calls in two hours,” Randall said. “What one dispatch center could not handle, the system sent to another dispatch, including Marquette, during these storms.”

“It’s an incredible tool,” he said. “Michigan has become perhaps the most advanced states’ system in the nation as far as 911 goes.”

“Text for 911 is an incredibly powerful tool,” Randall added. “The next new generation prefers texts to over calls.”

Also, 911 is able to translate over 100 languages using AI to detect the language spoken in, then translate the response from English to the texter’s language.

With offices in Marquette, Lansing, Gaylord and Mount Pleasant, PFN provides fiber-optic network services to major wireless service providers using 236 cellular towers — helping to provide access throughout Michigan, including many rural areas that have not traditionally had access to wireless communication.

PFN also provides fiber-optic services for a variety of purposes including, regional internet service providers, major telecommunications, hospital networks, schools and universities, financial institutions, manufacturers, utility companies as well as small- and medium-sized businesses.

It might be hard to believe that at the beginning of 2015, the company had just four employees. Now, PFN employs 53 people — signaling 1300% growth in less than a decade.

PFN’s purchase of another telecommunications carrier — Winn Telephone and Winn Telecom, located in downstate Mount Pleasant was part of that growth. Founded in 1908, Winn provides both residential and business services.

All of this leads up to PFN’s exciting news that it was awarded a $61.2 million grant from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program.

The grant will

follow three routes:

¯ Route 1: Lake Michigan to Chicago, underwater and on land

¯ Route 2: Connecting the Upper and Lower peninsulas via Lake Michigan, with a connection through Beaver Island, underwater and on land

¯ Route 3: Port Huron to Flint, on land

“As a result of this grant, more than 35,000 unserved and underserved Michigan residents will receive high speed broadband access,” said Jason Bordeaux, PFN’s Director of Sales & Marketing.

PFN is expects to complete a network expansion to provide bolstered services in the Detroit Metro, the Tri-City — which includes Bay City, Midland and Saginaw, and the Lansing regions of Michigan in 2024.

With all that going on, Peninsula Fiber Network and its amazing work will be a secret no longer.

To find out more about Peninsula Fiber Network, visit Pfnllc.net.


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