BY GABE LICHT
DELANO, MN For many people working from home and students participating in distance learning online, internet service is a necessity.
That necessity was in jeopardy for the 240 people in Franklin Township, Independence, and Greenfield who utilize Tiger 4G Internet.
In fact, it appeared as if service was being terminated all together.
Tiger 4G owner Ken Beamish said a change in terms with AT&T prompted an AT&T employee to start shutting off customers’ accounts.
“I posted on Facebook that I was trying to get a hold of the right people and couldn’t,” Beamish said. “I put it out there that we were going to lose service.”
He received an abundance of feedback, most of it negative.
“All the negative stuff I tried not to look at because I was working on things to get people help,” Beamish said. “After people calmed down from initial shock of losing internet, the feedback was coming back positive. Even before I got people restored, I had already gotten positive feedback: ‘It’s not all your fault. Is there anything we can do to help?’”
Many people found a way.
“Enough people called (Rep.) Joe McDonald and (US Rep.) Tom Emmer, and they got involved,” Beamish said. “(Delano Public Schools Superintendent) Matt Schoen called Tom and Joe, as well.”
McDonald and Emmer are familiar with AT&T’s lobbyists at the state and federal levels and got them connected with Beamish, who was then able to get a hold of the right people at AT&T to restore service.
“We’re negotiating a longer-term contract to keep everyone going, and add more customers, as well,” Beamish said.
That has turned a bad situation into a positive one.
“During the ‘Stay at Home’ order, it was not a good time,” Beamish said. “It’s a two-edge sword. On one side, it was really bad. On the other side, it turned into something that may be very good for my customers.”
Beamish started Tiger 4G in May 2019.
“The whole point was to help people in rural areas,” Beamish said. “I grew up in Independence. We’d be lucky if we could get online and browse the internet. It doesn’t work that well with old copper wires in the ground. On a good day, we got 1 megabyte.”
He came up with a solution.
“I worked out a way with AT&T to offer a wireless program,” Beamish said. “I put a modem and wireless router in your house, just like your cell phone pulls it out of the air and your router broadcasts it.”
That results in speeds of 5 megabytes up to 70 megabytes, depending on proximity to cell towers.
He’s looking forward to keeping that service going for years to come.
“I’m hoping in the next week or two we’ll get [a contract] finalized and be able to announce what it is to my customers and the community,” Beamish said. “All signs, right now, point to a positive outcome.”