A Message from Kristi

Have you ever stood on Minnesota’s tallest bridge? Firmly planted in Virginia, it’s a breathtaking view as the four-lane, 1,125 foot long bridge slimly stands a whopping 204 feet above the surface of what looks like a meandering river.


Officially named the Thomas Rukavina Memorial Bridge in 2021, it actually spans the Rochleau Mine Pit Lake. This 450 foot deep lake once had rumbling trucks, nearly the size of a miner’s house, extracting 300 million gross tons of iron ore over the course of its 84-year life.


Like the mine pit, CTC has experienced a vast amount of growth and change over the past several decades, especially in 2021.


Through Minnesota’s Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program our team was awarded over $350,000 to expand our fiber network in an unserved area of Ross Lake Township in Crow Wing County. This and other funding success can be attributed to the power of partnerships as we work alongside county governments, municipalities, and township boards to secure this critical funding. Speaking of teamwork, our partnerships with Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative and Arrowhead Electric Cooperative, Inc. continue to thrive and we are so grateful for their commitment to our cooperative.


Late last year I was thrilled to secure a one-year term on the Federal Communication Commission’s Interagency Working Board. Formed to provide guidance on workforce development and training the next generation of telecommunication employees, I look forward to sharing ideas and gaining knowledge from this great group of leaders.


In late November we finalized a partnership with the Northeast Service Cooperative (NESC). Headquartered in Mountain Iron, Minnesota, their network represents 3,160 route miles of fiber, a 20% increase in our service area. Not only will this allow us to provide high-speed, reliable internet services to businesses and residents throughout the area but more importantly, it will boost the economic capacity of the entire region.

NESC’s 610 mile footprint in northeast Minnesota may have few major highways, metropolitan areas, and minimal infrastructure but it’s need for a robust fiber internet network is no different than any other location throughout the state or nation. We often say that internet is just as imperative now as electricity was in the 1950s. That couldn’t be more true than along the paths, trails, streets, and dirt roads of the state’s rural areas… some of which you’ll see on the following pages.


The imagery throughout this annual report serves two purposes: to show the literal roads and paths that our fiber network often parallels but also to act as a symbol of the figurative paths that CTC has chosen to take… often of a ‘road less traveled’.


Robert Frost’s famous poem The Road Not Taken served as the inspiration for the theme of this annual report and our mantra for the change and growth we’ve recently experienced. I encourage you to read the poem in its entirety but will leave you with the final phrase, “I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” As we venture down the multitude of roads and paths within our service area and strategic plan, we look forward to continuing to serve you, our members, for years to come.

Kristi Westbrock

Chief Executive Officer/General Manager

Board of Directors

Kathy Kobliska


District One

Kirk Smith

Vice Chairperson

District Three

Amanda Lowe


District Five

Chad Converse


District Four

Morris Nelson


District One

Heather Hoskins


District Two

Jerry Palm


Member at Large

Sheila Haverkamp


District Five

Mike Wetzel


District Four

A message from Kathy

If the global pandemic did nothing else, it proved that there are plenty of people – even entire communities! – that don’t have access to high-speed, reliable internet. These disparities continued to be apparent throughout 2021. I’m proud to report that despite these challenges, last year was a year of growth for our cooperative and represented the final year of a five-year strategic plan.


Now working from a new three-year strategic plan, we’re excited for what lies ahead. Funding for broadband will continue to be at the forefront of our minds as we make our way through 2022. A historic amount of federal funding has recently been dedicated to broadband expansion. For example, $46.5 BILLION will be available through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)’s Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program alone!

Funding like this, and the partnerships that Kristi mentioned, help to fulfill our mission of getting reliable affordable internet to unserved and underserved areas, especially in our rural communities.


We expect our membership base is surpass 17,000 this year and will continue to proudly serve each and every home, business, cabin, neighborhood, and community within our service area. Thank you for your loyal support of our local cooperative!

Kathleen Kobliska

CTC Board of Directors Chairperson

Data & Internet Usage

Internet Traffic

It’s no surprise that internet usage has increased every year since its inception. However, the trends that we saw in 2021 were likely due, in part, to the 2020 global pandemic shockwave. Not only did the pandemic shine a bright light on the disparities in internet availability, it also emphasized the critical role that having this connectivity plays in our everyday lives.


Last year, we experienced an 18% increase in activity, as compared to 2020. Our peak usage was in October, followed by December.


Digging a little deeper you’ll see that Netflix and Google still dominated when it comes to bandwidth usage. Last year, an average of 32% of our monthly internet traffic was derived from this demand, representing a decrease of 4% from 2020.

Service Area

In 2021, CTC’s service area expanded in a BIG way. Late last year we established a long-term partnership agreement with the Northeast Service Cooperative (NESC). This new partnership gives CTC access to an additional 3,160 route miles of fiber in northeast Minnesota.


“CTC has a proven track record serving Northern Minnesota with reliable telecommunications services and innovative business solutions,” said Paul Brinkman, Executive Director at NESC. “We are delighted to enter into a long-term partnership with CTC to expand highcapacity broadband access and job-creating business development in St. Louis and Carlton Counties.”


The fiber network spans the cities of Cloquet, Hibbing, Chisholm, Mountain Iron, Virginia, Eveleth, Gilbert, Biwabik, Tower, Ely, Aurora, and the surrounding areas and will provide broadband internet services to residents and businesses throughout.


Funding and need usually dictates which areas we build and/or expand in. If you have family or friends in an area where there are no CTC services, please encourage them to visit our “Crowd Fiber” site at join.connectctc.com. The more visitors we get from a certain area, the more likely we are to build there!

Funding and need usually dictates which areas we build and/or expand in. If you have family or friends in an area where there are no CTC services, please encourage them to visit our “Crowd Fiber” site at join.connectctc.com. The more visitors we get from a certain area, the more likely we are to build there!

Fiber is future-proof

The number of uses for the internet are as numerous as the number of lakes in Minnesota. Whether it’s to access telehealth or educational services, work remotely, connect with friends and family, stream entertainment, or for everyday living such as banking, bill paying, and communicating… now more than ever, residents and businesses depend on fast, reliable internet.


Fiber optics – the best technology available – give our members the capacity and speed they need today and well into the future. As the demand continues to grow, CTC’s investment and commitment to deliver fiber to our members will continue to grow as well.


Jobs staked by CTC last year – this is the total number of homes, cabins, and businesses that received CTC fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) connections last year.


Square miles in CTC’s service area.


Route miles of new fiber installed in 2021.


Total route miles of CTC fiber that traverses our service areas.

A total of 16,058
CTC members have fiber.

A Minute of Revenue in 2021

Here’s the revenue-generating capabilities in ONE minute, for today’s top technology companies. Much of this can be traced back to their activity on various internet-based networks and platforms.

Source: visualcapitalist.com

Alphabet (Google)

A Minute on the Internet

Here’s the estimated amount of data created on the internet in ONE minute via some of the most popular apps and platforms.

  • Netflix: 28,000 subscribers watching
  • Instagram: 695,000 stories shared
  • LinkedIn: 9,132 connections made
  • WhatsApp/Messenger: 69 million messages sent
  • TikTok:5,000 downloads
  • Twitch: 2 million views
  • Online Shopping: 1.6 million USD spent online
  • Tinder: 2 million swipes
  • Mail: 197.6 million emails sent
  • YouTube: 500 hours of content uploaded

Financials – December 31, 2021

If you’d like to request a printed copy of the 2021 Financial Statements, please contact us at 218-454-1234 or email marketing@goctc.com.

Happy Trails Ahead

Congratulations to the following
team members who retired in 2021!

Bob Wangerin
29 Years


Bob started his career at CTC in 1992 as a technician. He was praised by his coworkers and customers for his precision and skill over the next three decades.


We celebrated his retirement on July 26, 2021, and presented him with our first-ever Cooperative Vision Award. Thank you, Bob, for your loyalty to this cooperative and its members!

Paul Claseman
27 Years


Paul started his career in 1994 and spent nearly three decades with CTC as a devoted technician. We celebrated his retirement on August 25, 2021.


Thank you, Paul, for all that you’ve contributed over the years. We will miss your dedication and enthusiasm.

Cyndi Perkins
5 Years


Cyndi began working at CTC in 2016 as a temporary employee, assisting with billing and accounting tasks. She was hired on full-time in 2019 and then retired in early December 2021.


Thank you, Cyndi, for your attention to detail and positive attitude throughout your time here at CTC.

Atwater Recognized as 2021 ICT Visionary

CTC’s Director of Network Operations, Jason Atwater, was selected as a 2021 ICT Visionary! (ICT = Information and Communications Technology)


This recognition is bestowed upon a handful of leaders each year by ISE Magazine, one of the industry’s leading publications.


Jason and the other 2021 Visionaries were featured in three issues of ISE Magazine. His 24 years of industry experience definitely shines in these articles and we’re very proud to call him a member of the CTC team!


To learn more visit www.isemag.com

Connecting the Community

As the COVID pandemic slowly started to subside, we were able to participate in more in-person events. We continued to support as many community events, fundraisers, and requests as possible by attending events and/or contributing over $25,000 to local organizations and causes. Here are a few specific examples of how CTC engaged and supported communities in 2021…

Cherry Open House


Last year our service area expanded to include a new area in Cherry Township. East of Hibbing, this rural area was previously unserved by any fiber internet provider. Now homes and businesses are connected to our network, receiving speeds up to 1 Gig!


We held an open house at Cherry Town Hall in April, to celebrate the work of township leaders and community advocates that helped bring this project to life. Now we all agree… the internet is “sweeter” in Cherry!

Hello, Kat!


We were thrilled to welcome Kat Perkins, to the Pillager High School’s CTC Center for a holiday concert in early December. Kat is a singer-songwriter, performer, and nationally recognized public speaker, well known for her appearance on the TV show The Voice.


During the event our members experienced the new state-of-the-art auditorium and enjoyed the incredible vocal and musical talents of Kat and her band. Plus, the high school’s ProStart culinary team treated us to tropicalthemed food and beverages, complete with s’mores stations that included homemade marshmallows!

Focusing on the Cyber Bad Guys


Last year we created an internal Cyber Risk Management Team, comprised of nine staff members. They have been charged with creating and carrying out a plan that will lower the risk of experiencing a serious cyber incident and help limit the damage that an incident could cause. The group has since developed a 24-page plan, based on the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Cybersecurity Framework. The plan will help determine internal processes and systems that will better protect our network and the members we serve.


These efforts may not seem directly linked to other community engagement activities. However, as online scams, ransomware, and cyber threats become more complex and prevalent, entire communities are sometimes “taken down” by these attacks. In fact, phishing scams cost U.S. businesses an estimated $1.2 billion in 2018!


To learn more visit: www.goctc.com/avoidscams.

Mental Health Awareness


CTC continues to support Smiles for Jake, a local organization that spreads hope and positivity, while decreasing the stigma around mental health. While CTC provides financial support to the all-volunteer organization, many staff also serve on the board of directors and/or volunteer their time at events.


Formed in 2019, the nonprofit is experiencing a growing need for the advocacy, programs, and events that it hosts. Mental health and suicide continue to affect a surprising number of individuals, young people, families, and entire communities.

Cultivating the Culture

Not only are ‘norms’ in the field or in the office evolving, but we work in an industry with constantly changing targets and technology. Add to that, 75 different personalities and work styles. And while our team may not have physical navigational tools like a GPS or map to guide and motivate us, our staff continue to forge their own paths and find ways to move forward.


So… what really guides us? We all have one destination in mind – to provide a first-class experience for our members.


Can we have fun while we do that? Absolutely.


Many of these photos speak for themselves but here’s a sampling of some of the experiences we shared in 2021, all while cultivating our culture and striking a balance: equal parts fun and hard work.


  • monthly health and wellness challenges
  • drive-thru holiday party
  • CPR refresher courses
  • Halloween trunk-or-treat in Hibbing
  • a visit from Representative Pete Stauber
  • fall and spring employee golf outings
  • family fun night at Kart Kountry
  • drive-in movie night at The Woods
  • Gig A. Byte, our “Pay It Forward Associate” out and about around town
  • awards events and celebrations
  • sporting clays and golf tourneys
  • retirement parties
  • parades, parades, and more parades!

Honoring Mike Whistler

In 2021, we carried out a promise we made to our coworker and friend.


When Mike suddenly passed away in July 2020, we felt compelled to do something that would honor him. When the opportunity arose to sponsor the building of a house in Mike’s honor, we didn’t hesitate. By partnering with Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity we helped build a home in Brainerd for a single mom and her two young boys.


Twenty-five CTC staff and their families contributed over 190 hours to the Mike Whistler Memorial Build. This included everything from hauling trusses and raising walls to a full day of assembling furniture and getting the home ‘move-in’ ready. Alyssa and her sons spent their first night in their new, safe home on January 24, 2022.


Mike… we miss you dearly and will continue to honor your legacy through this project and for years to come. You would have gotten a kick out of the smiles on the boys’ faces when they were doing acrobatics in their brand new beds, in their brand new home

Our Mission

To empower our members, employees, and communities through exceptional service and life-changing technology solutions for a sustainable future.

Our Vision

Through technology leadership, smart growth, and community engagement, our cooperative will demonstrate extraordinary focus to positively transform those we serve.

Our Values

Member Experience





Connecting the Community

Brainerd | Baxter | Crosby | Mountain Iron