LAKEFIELD — By the end of January, about 300 Lakefield residents will enjoy a range telecommunication services powered by fiber-optic cables.

The company offering the service to homes and businesses — Southwest Minnesota Broadband Services — started as a consortium of communities that met in March 2009 to discuss the need for high-speed Internet in surrounding areas.

“It’s not your grandpa’s farm anymore, and farmers have extremely high-tech businesses where they deal with everyone over the Internet,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar during a telephone speech at the groundbreaking ceremony.

After much discussion and planning, coupled with a $12.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, construction for the fiber optic cables began in July at Lakefield. Communities that will eventually be served are: Jackson, Round Lake, Bingham Lake, Brewster, Wilder, Heron Lake and Okabena.

“Our first customer was hooked up in December last year,” said Dan Olsen, general manager for SMBS.

As the majority of the customers in Lakefield are already connected to their options of Internet, voice, and/or cable TV, Olsen explained that installation in Round Lake started Wednesday.

“We’re installing for the Round Lake mayor today (Wednesday),” he added. “The little thing called winter showed up, but we will kick off construction again in April for Heron Lake, Brewster and Bingham Lake. By September, we’re hoping to have our first round of construction completed. There’s an ongoing need and want for the service.”

Currently, primary customers for SMBS are residential customers, but Olsen is optimistic that demand from businesses will continue to increase.

“Our ultimate speed is 60 Mbps/40 Mbps,” Olsen said. “The nice part about fiber optic is the clearer signal.”

SMBS currently offers four tiers of Internet speed with varying price packages.

Personalized higher speed Internet up to 1000 Mbps is available to customers upon request.

Key partners in the Southwest Minnesota Broadband project are WindomNet and Stillwater-based consulting firm U-reka Broadband Ventures. WindomNet is the first such network provider in a Minnesota municipality to offer fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) connection.