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From GigaZone to GigaTechXpo

[Note: this post was updated on 2/9/23 with the following description.]

Fully leveraging Paul Bunyan Communications’ fiber network is what keeps Gary Johnson awake at night. In the above interview, Johnson, CEO/GM of PBC, indicates that this is a fun time as it opens up so many possibilities to improve the quality of life for the people in PBC’s approximately 6,000 square-mile service territory. The intent of the inaugural GigaZone TechXpo is to expose the power of that fiber network to people within and outside their network.

Building on the successful, GigaZone Gaming Championship, which drew 4,000+ people in the last live incarnation, Johnson hopes to create a bit of the magic of what would be seen at an event like CES. TechXpo will be a technology showcase for students, educational institutions, and companies that complements the excitement of the April 22nd gaming championship.

With Steve “Woz” Wozniak as a keynote speaker, it is sure to be a fun, informative, and meaningful event. Johnson points out that Woz apparently gave high praise to PBC’s all-fiber network even before they first met.

Another tie-in to Woz is the Apple II Plus seen in the background of Johnson’s video. This still-working device was purchased by Johnson when he was in high school. It pointed him in a direction where the mid and last-mile networks are an integral part of cloud computing.

Johnson is also quick to give credit to former GM, Paul Freude, along the board who boldly began a path towards FTTH in the early 2000s. Of course, Johnson was part of that team and deserves credit as well for implementing fiber before it became a generally accepted network approach.

His leadership represents a transition from telephone to IP networking. It will be interesting to see how the GigaZone initiatives led by Johnson and the team will be a catalyst for the next generation of leaders.

Interview Highlights #

00:00 – Overview of Paul Bunyan Communications and the Northern Minnesota region it serves.

00:48 – Johnson provides an overview of the GigaZone TechXpo and the technology opportunities afforded by companies and institutions in its service territory.

02:16 – Gamers develop skills that are useful for various technology roles. Johnson points out that often gamers don’t realize the value of these skills to employers. One of the goals of TechXpo is to expose their skills.

03:32 – This is a great way to demonstrate the speed and low latency of an all-fiber, gigabit+ network.

04:14 – It also presents an opportunity for economic development and Johnson explains how they are working with economic development agencies in Bemidji and Grand Rapids, MN to promote their region.

05:24 – This is an opportunity for employers, whether they are within or outside the region, to find qualified local or telework employees.

06:19 – Based on the previous GigaZone Gaming Championships, it will be a high-energy, exciting event. Johnson would like it to be like the Eureka Innovation Zone at CES (Added – 02/12/23 – see this article on CES2007, where Gary points out the importance of attending CES).

07:41 – One of the educational institutions they are working with is Bemidji State University.

08:31 – Beyond being the keynote speaker, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak is expected to be wandering the exhibits and the gaming areas. Johnson notes that education and learning are close to Woz’s heart.

11:40 – Gary provides the backstory on his backdrop, which is a kind of living museum. The backdrop also signifies another connection to Woz.

13:47 – For his, “significant contributions to their professional fields and communities and are at the peak of their professional careers,” is the recipient of a 2022 Minnesota State University at Moorhead  Distinguished Alumni Award. As he points out in the article about his award, he was the 23rd employee and the only computer programmer for what was then a traditional telephone cooperative. In a sense, this mirrors the transition that moved the telco industry to all-IP networks.

14:37 – Johnson credits his predecessor and the board for sticking their neck out to build fiber, “because they knew it was important.”

16:37 – It will be great to catch up with Gary at NTCA’s RTIME in San Diego, February 19th-22nd.

Added 2/18/23 – Live Tweeting of the Above Interview #

Here are the Tweets published by Viodi during the premiere of the above interview.

The premiere of the video interview with Gary Johnson of @PaulBunyanComm is about to start. Live chat with @PaulBunyanComm about their upcoming GigaZone TechXpo

“The TechXpo is about empowering the youth and the workforce.”

@VisitBemidji supplied beautiful footage of the area served by @PaulBunyanComm

This will be a great opportunity for companies looking for skilled teleworkers. Gary’s goal is to give it the energy of CES, but in Minnesota.

@stevewoz coming to Bemidji is a big deal. He will be a great addition to the conference.

In a sense, Woz’s invention of the Apple II Plus led to Gary’s career.

@PaulBunyanComm has been putting in fiber since 2004 and has been all fiber since 2014. It is fun figuring out how to leverage the network for its community.

Looking forward to seeing Gary at @NTCAconnect‘s #RTIME.

Here is the interview and associated write-up.

And a shoutout and thank you to @CalixHQ, @rbvid, and @VisitBemidji for the use of the broll. It really helped paint a picture of the cool things @PaulBunyanComm is doing for its community.

Originally tweeted by Ken Pyle (@viodi) on February 9, 2023.

Author Ken Pyle, Managing Editor

By Ken Pyle, Managing Editor

Ken Pyle is Marketing Director for the Broadband Forum. The mission of this 25+-year-old non-profit “is to unlock the potential for new markets and profitable revenue growth by leveraging new technologies and standards in the home, intelligent small business, and multi-user infrastructure of the broadband network.”

He is also co-founder of Viodi, LLC and Managing Editor of the Viodi View, a publication focused on the rural broadband ecosystem, autonomous vehicles, and electric aviation. He has edited and produced numerous multimedia projects for NTCA, US Telecom and Viodi. Pyle is the producer of Viodi’s Local Content Workshop, the Video Production Crash Course at NAB, as well as ViodiTV. He has been intimately involved in Viodi’s consulting projects and has created processes for clients to use for their PPV and VOD operations, as well authored reports on the independent telco market.

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4 replies on “From GigaZone to GigaTechXpo”

After the tech crash that followed, Paul Bunyan continued to grow, even though the majority of the telecom industry fell into a deep and long slump. Paul Bunyan grew something like 250% in the first decade of the 2000s.

Between 2000 and 2010, video services drove network adoption more than broadband. Paul Bunyan Communications probably used the Open Video System provisions of the 1996 Telecom Act more than any other provider, as seen in this 2007 interview with your predecessor, Paul Freude. These rules helped speed the expansion of your network.

https://www.viodi.tv/2007/11/27/ovs/

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