Blog.

10.19.2021

PRESS RELEASE: Millennium Geospatial Earns Release Ready Specialty From Esri

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 10/19/2021

Kevin Maes
Millennium Geospatial
608.949.9005
kevin.maes@millenniumgeospatial.com

Millennium Geospatial Earns Release Ready Specialty From Esri

GIS consulting firm recognized for industry expertise and software specialization

Madison, Wisconsin: Earlier this month, Millennium Geospatial was awarded the Release Ready Specialty from Esri.

“Our team is committed to bringing the best ArcGIS knowledge in the marketplace to our clients and having the opportunity to achieve this specialty from Esri has been a win for our clients, our company, and for Esri,” said Kevin Maes, VP of Engineering at Millennium Geospatial.

According to the Esri website: “Partners in the Release Ready Specialty offer industry expertise along with solutions,services or content using the latest ArcGIS products. As early adopters of Esri software releases, these partners are leaders and ready to help you leverage the newest capabilities.”

“Access to the training and development opportunities offered to Esri Partners has been a phenominal opportunity for our team,” said Taylor McMaster, Director of Technology at Millennium Geospatial. “It’s one thing to know that you can use the tool and quite another to demonstrate your abilities and have them reviewed and validated directly by the software company. This collaboration is what sets the Esri Partner program apart form many other partnerships.”

Millennium Geospatial has been an Esri Silver Partner since 2019.

About Millennium Geospatial: Established in 2019, Millennium Geospatial was developed to work in partnership with Broadband Service Providers, Telecommunication Construction Companies and Engineering Consultants to address their Data, Engineering, & Project Management needs with custom created field applications, dashboards, and data integration. With project experience in 40 of the 50 states as well as Canada, the Millennium Geospatial team has a deep understanding of the business challenges that their clients experience. Millennium Geospatial has positioned itself to work with their clients to provide GIS solutions that are unique to the needs of the client’s project and overall company goals.

For media, training, or other service inquiries, Contact Us.

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10.14.2021

5 Reasons The Time Is Ripe To Become A FISP

Wispapalooza is going on this week and that got us thinking about the “WISP to FISP” topic even more than usual.

When we create educational content to share on our website, we have extensive discussions so our writers understand what we’re trying to convey. These discussions are incredibly valuable and often evolve our topic from what we originally intended.

Interestingly, in today’s landscape, we’re finding that WISP and FISP do not necessarily need to be two separate business models.

If you’re a WISP, the time is ripe to consider becoming a FISP but fear not, this is probably not a “get rid of what we we’re doing completely and invest in all new stuff” sort of thing. A hybrid path is very often the route to success. We have seen it dozens of times with our own clients. With this in mind, here are 5 reasons the time is ripe to become a FISP:

Adding Fiber To Your Business Model Allows For Growth and Competetiveness In The Marketplace

When you are strictly operating within the WISP business model, towers are what make the Internet magic happen. Towers have their limitations in terms of coverage area and also speed when the tower is servicing many customers. Towers also need to be maintained – sometimes a lot.

WISPs that are adding fiber to their model are taking what’s worked for them and their customers up to this point and growing to establish longevity in the market and meet the wildly high demand for Internet – and preferably fast Internet.

Access To Grants, Loans and Other Financing

Federal grants are what typically make headlines, but remember that there are a wealth of grants at the county and State levels as well. Traditional financing is an option as well as options like our parent company Millennium is offering through the Millennium Infrastructure Fund.

Why does this point make the list? For one, a fiber investment is expensive and the other reason is that Covid indirectly exposed how lacking Internet is in many areas of the US so there is a new level of interest in financing these projects.

Business Evolution

The reality of our times is this: keep up with the market or someone else will.  Interested in still being competetive in your marketplace 25 years from now? Investing in fiber is inevitable. If you are interested in growth, fiber is inevitable. Is speed your thing? Well then fiber is inevitable. If you want to expand your customer base or even just simply retain your customers…say it with us: fiber is inevitable.

As we said earlier, a total business model overhaul is not necessarily required, but expanding the vision is likely needed for WISPs to be in it for the long haul.

Fast Is The Future

If you want to know what consumers think of their Internet options these days, go to any small town in America and ask someone. Anyone. They will likely all say the same thing: The Internet is too slow around here.

Think about it: Netflix (and all the other subscription based streaming options) is our modern day cable or sataillite television. Slow Internet means good luck streaming. If that doesn’t seem all that important to you, consider kids who can’t do their homework or participate in school if it requires being online, watching a video or livestream, uploading homework, and the list goes on.

Bandwidth Is The Future

Remember when we paid for long distance phone calls by the minute? At .25/minute, we kept our conversations short and sweet or we paid dearly. The same is true with Internet. People want/expect/demand access to unlimited bandwidth. Gone are the days of people paying for data caps because “that’s just how it is”. Technology has brought us to a place where it no longer has to be this way, and companies that are meeting this consumer need will come out the winners of people’s hard earned dollars.

Demand for fast Internet is at a fever pitch at this moment in history. Do what’s best for your company, but whatever you do, don’t stick with what you’re doing simply because “this is how we’ve always done it”.

If you have questions about a potential FISP project, feel free to reach out to us!

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9.17.2021

Partner Spotlight: An Interview With Rebecca Denman of Holtger Bros., Inc.

This partner spotlight with Rebecca Denman from Holtger Bros., Inc. originally appeared in our quarterly email newsletter. Not receiving our newsletter? Click here to sign up!

Kevin Maes: Holtger Bros. has been a full service OSP utility contractor for many years. What were you/the company seeing in the marketplace that planted the company firmly within telecom in recent years?

Rebecca Denman: Yes, HBI has been a key player in this industry for 75 years! We have seen some ups and downs in overall work opportunity, but that has shifted in the last several years. As bandwidth and data needs have increased, the industry has had to transition to a more fiber-based network to support these needs; resulting in more infrastructure to be built and maintained. Essentially, with the increased demands in the industry and the level of experience our team has to offer, HBI has been able to build and maintain some great long term business relationships with our customers!

KM: Are you seeing more design build requests where the clients are asking the construction company to do the engineering and if so, do you see that trend continuing in the future?

RD: A few of our clients are focusing on this turnkey method for their build requests, but overall, we are still seeing the majority of any design builds being led by engineering firms, or by the engineers on staff with our clients. It really seems to depend on the variables and who the client is.

KM: What do you think the industry will look like in 5 years?

RD: I expect that this industry will continue to thrive over the next 5 years, as we are in the infancy of these fiber builds right now. With the continued increase in bandwidth demands there will be a need for more areas to increase their fiber footprint. We are seeing a tremendous amount of fiber work being deployed nationally through the different broadband grants, in addition to the more localized “non-funded” builds. At this point, we don’t see this slowing down anytime soon, which is great for all of us!

Rebecca has led the marketing efforts at Holtger Bros., Inc. for over 15 years. A few of her key accomplishments in this role include significantly increasing company sales since 2005 through the establishment of high impact marketing plans and strategies for business development programs and enhancing company revenue on contracts by negotiating higher market pricing through effective strategy implementation. Connect with Rebecca on LinkedIn.

Interested in reading another interview with an industry expert? Click here for the interview we did with Terry Rubenthaler from Midwest Energy Communications!

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7.19.2021

Creating Feature Classes In ArcGIS Pro

Have you ever Googled: How to _________?

Has anyone ever not done that?

Our team works with a lot of technology. In our business, the software we work with most frequently is ArcGIS Pro from Esri. This is a tool that’s…robust. A new user can quickly be left thinking: Where do I begin? How do I __________?

We’re Here To Help!

ArcGIS Pro by EsriTeam member Adam Schreiner recently created a short, easy to follow video walking a viewer through the process of creating feature classes in ArcGIS Pro:

Interested in learning more from our team? Check out our growing help video library on our YouTube channel where you will find this video on creating feature classes in ArcGIS Pro as well as many more. Pro tip: Subscribe to the page so you never miss new content!

Interested in learning how to build a map in ArcGIS Online and open it in ArcGIS Pro? Click here to learn how!

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7.1.2021

How To Build A Map In ArcGIS Online and Open In ArcGIS Pro

Have you ever Googled: How to _________?

Has anyone ever not done that?

Our team works with a lot of technology. In our business, the tech we work with most frequently is ArcGIS Pro from Esri. This is a tool that’s…robust. A new user can quickly be left thinking: Where do I begin? How do I __________?

Team member Justin Neustaetter recently created a short, easy to follow video walking a viewer through the process of building a map in ArcGIS and opening it in ArcGIS Pro:

Interested in learning more from our team? Check out our growing help video library on our YouTube channel! Pro tip: Subscribe to the page so you never miss new content!

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7.1.2021

Here We Go: Team MGS Is “Hiking” The Appalachian Trail!

We recently shared details about the Ascent Plan that we’re currently working on. One of the initiatives is to create a Team Member Wellness Program. While a fully formed program remains a work in progress, as we create it we are mindful of two important points:

  • We must strive to create a program that resonates with our actual team members.
  • We must strive to create a program that takes into account mind, body, and spirit.

There are many done for you Wellness Programs in the marketplace – a plug and play program hooked on to a health insurance plan is common – but to ensure we build something that resonates and is, in the words of the Grateful Dead (and Jim Collins), “built to last”, we’re going to DIY this iniative and we’re confident we won’t regret it!

During the month of July, our team members have the option of working together to virtually hike the Appalachian Trail!

The trail is about 2200 miles and we currently have around 20 team members. If we each get moving 4 miles per day for 31 days, we’ll get there together!

We’re making this as do’able as possible.

Movement counts. You may not have the time, interest, energy, or stamina to jog 4 miles a day. But we all probably log a mile or two just by walking pets, walking to and from the bus stop, mowing the lawn after work, walking around the office, and more. Weekly 9 hole golf league? That’s probably 1-2 miles if you do the math. Swimming laps? This is a virtual adventure so count it! Biking around Lake Monona? That’s 13 miles! There is truly something for everyone to do in this activity.

Another element of this month long collaboration involves giving back.

Our company plans to donate funds for every mile collectively logged by the team this month up to our goal of 2200 miles. We are working as a group on what cause will receive the donation now.

Interested in following our progress? Tune in on social media as that’s where we’ll be posting updates! Follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest. Why Pinterest, you ask? That’s another post for another day…

Cheers to wellness, teamwork, and giving back!

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6.21.2021

In The Trenches: GIS In The Field

This article original appeared in our quarterly email newsletter. Not receiving our newsletter? Click here to sign up!

Alex Nelson joined our field team recently and was generous enough to share some great information about his career path as well as the work his team is doing to bring broadband to those who need and want it in a big way!

We recently got a high level overview of a GIS field engineer’s process. Can you share what you were doing with the poles in the field photos your team sent back to the office recently?

There is a lot of permitting that goes into fiber builds and we needed to submit permit requests to a power company to attach fiber to their poles in an area in Michigan. Part of the permitting process is to let the utility know where on the pole the fiber will be placed. Further, there are rules around height and distance from other wires on a pole so it’s important that we get it right.

Tell us more about the process for measuring poles for the permitting process.

It’s best/most efficient to have two people working together to measure poles. One person holds the measuring stick and collects the data and the other person operates a data collector tool. They are inputting the data as the stick person is verbally calling out the numbers. You do this for each and every pole on the route. Hopefully you’re in an area where a hotspot is operable, otherwise the data is collected manually and input later.

Working along roads, what kind of safety measures are in place?

We work during daylight hours and in pairs. We wear neon safety vests at all times. We have a magnet on the side of our vehicles identifying us to the public as well.

Is the measuring stick easy to operate?

Honestly, it takes practice! Looking up and balancing the pole and focusing in on the info you need, I got a woozy, disoriented feeling at first. But your body adjusts pretty quickly and you can always take turns with your partner if needed.

Do you enjoy this part of the process?

I really do. I studied GIS in college and then in previous jobs had gotten away from the  mapmaking componant and missed it a lot. I’m glad to be back doing that as part of our projects, and I’ve really enjoyed owning the permitting process for a large project that I’m working on. Building rapport with the utility companies, our clients, and the local people who frequently stop us in the field and want to learn more about what we’re doing – I really enjoy being a part of something that’s going to be very impactful in a community.

Alex Nelson is a GIS Field Engineer at Millennium Geospatial. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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6.15.2021

Partner Spotlight: Interview With Terry Rubenthaler From Midwest Energy & Communications

This partner spotlight with Terry Rubenthaler from Midwest Energy & Communications originally appeared in our quarterly email newsletter. Not receiving our newsletter? Click here to sign up!

Kevin Maes: Who is Midwest Energy & Communications and how did you get in the internet business?

Terry Rubenthaler: Midwest Energy & Communications (MEC) started out as an electric cooperative in the 1930s to serve rural customers in southern Michigan, northern Indiana and northern Ohio electric service because none of the other electric utilities would build out into the rural areas. These rural customers created us as a Cooperative and to this day the people who receive service from MEC are the owners of the company.

Because we were owned by our customer’s we would regularly take surveys to see how we were doing and what we could do better. The results of these surveys were somewhat surprising that our electric service was good, but they could not live in our rural space any longer because they needed high speed reliable internet service. For many years, we tried different technologies to provide this need and prevent our customers from moving away including wireless, satellite, and broadband over powerline (BPL), but none of them could meet the ever increasing need of the customers.

We learned that some other Coops in our similar situation were building fiber to the premise and making a business case that it could make profit and provide world class service. In 2014, we started in the business to once again build a service that none of the existing providers would. Now we have over 2500 miles and over 16,000 active internet customers.

KM: You’ve been in utilities for over 25 years. How did you get in the business, what’s different about the industry these days, and what surprises you about the new internet business?

TR: I started out at MEC in 1995 as a system engineer working only on the electric system. I was promoted to Engineering Manager, then VP of Engineering and Operations. When we embarked on the fiber to the home business, I was asked to take on the role of CTO which oversees all engineering and IT for both lines of business and also fiber operations.

Obviously, diving into a new line of business is a huge change, but also customer expectations have changed greatly. Customers demand quick communications and are forgiving of mistakes or outages, but only if you get it out quickly through text, emails and social media. We used to call in help first when we had outages, now we call our communications department first. The biggest surprise is how quickly the bandwidth needs have grown. Customers are using 3-4 times the bandwidth and data than just 5 years ago, if that trend continues, which we are assuming it will, fiber will soon be the only technology that can provide what the customers want.

KM: In your experience, do you think that moving to a more GIS, data centric approach is the right move for companies/cooperatives today and if so, who do you think benefits the most from the investment?

TR: Not only do I believe it is the right move, but it is the only way to efficiently operate anymore. For all operations in our business, the GIS mapping data is the hub of the wheel. All data flows through the GIS mapping data and virtually nothing can be completed any longer without accurate GIS data. In the end, the customers benefit from these investments. The customer gets better more reliable service because of these investments. That is how MEC looks at all investments, that it will benefit the customers or we don’t do it.

KM: With all of the federal, regional and local broadband funding out there, as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic, what do you think the industry will look like in 5 years?

TR: MEC has bid in and expects to receive funding from the FCC to expand our fiber service outside of our electric footprint to other rural homes and businesses that are in the same situation as our electric customer were a few years ago. We believe that fiber is the only long term, almost future proof, option available that can serve future needs that we can only imagine at this point. In 5 years, I expect to have 35,000 internet customers and will be serving them 10 gigabit residential service.

Terry is the Chief Technology Officer at Midwest Energy Cooperative in Cassopolis, MI. With over 25 years of industry experience, Terry is skilled in Energy, Power Systems, Renewable Energy, Demand Response, and Broadband/Smart Grid. Connect with Terry on LinkedIn.

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6.9.2021

Ascent Plan

Millennium Geospatial opened its doors in July, 2019. What an exciting two years it has been and the future continues to be bright, which we’re grateful for.

When you start and are building a business, you put as much structure as possible into a “thing” that really is quite devoid of structure since there isn’t much going on in the beginning! Yes, you get your business entity set up, your website, proper insurance, a couple of team members, and you start to network to beat the band, but there are many, many things you hold off on creating until you have a need to create them.

That day has come, and that’s what the Ascent Plan at Millennium Geospatial is all about! We have mapped out nearly fifty initiatives that we have already started to implement and will continue to implement over the next 18 months. Some things take a day to create and implement and other things take many months. We shared the plan with the entire MGS team last week at our 1st annual team building event and are grateful to have some team members eager to help us shape iniatives that are particularly meaningful to them. We will update this post along the way as we hit milestones that the public may be interested in knowing about. #herewegrow!

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6.7.2021

PRESS RELEASE: Millennium Geospatial Hires John Schroeder, Promotes Taylor McMaster

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 6/7/2021

Kevin Maes
Millennium Geospatial
608.949.9005
kevin.maes@millenniumgeospatial.com

Millennium Geospatial Hires John Schroeder, Promotes Taylor McMaster

GIS consulting firm adds to staff to continue supporting a thriving client base

Madison, Wisconsin: On June 1, 2021, John Schroeder joined the Millennium Geospatial team as Director of Operations and Taylor McMaster was promoted to Director of Technology.

“We couldn’t be more excited to have John join our team in this leadership role. The Director of Operations is a newly created position within our organization and an incredibly integral part of our continued growth plan. John brings an energy and a skillset to the position that will benefit our team and our clients tremendously,” said Kevin Maes, VP of Engineering at Millennium Geospatial.

Schroeder brings over 15 years of experience leading teams to his new role and has extensive experience in telecom, logistics, and team building. He resides in Mitchell, South Dakota with his wife and 6 children.

“Taylor McMaster has been with our company since day one and this promotion to Director of Technology is well earned and deserved. Taylor has moved our company forward in the technology realm at a level and a pace that is not easy to do. Elevating Taylor to this leadership role will allow for our team to continue to innovate and support clients at a very high level,” said Mr. Maes.

McMaster has over 7 years of experience in the telecom industry and has made extensive GIS contributions in all roles. He resides in Denver, Colorado with his mini labradoodle, Wilson.

“The future is bright for companies willing to make the much needed investment in broadband around the globe. We have been, and continue to be, poised and positioned to support our clients in making a significant impact on the communities they serve,” said Mr. Maes.

About Millennium Geospatial: Established in 2019, Millennium Geospatial was developed to work in partnership with Broadband Service Providers, Telecommunication Construction Companies and Engineering Consultants to address their Data, Engineering, & Project Management needs with custom created field applications, dashboards, and data integration. With project experience in 40 of the 50 states as well as Canada, the Millennium Geospatial team has a deep understanding of the business challenges that their clients experience. Millennium Geospatial has positioned itself to work with their clients to provide GIS solutions that are unique to the needs of the client’s project and overall company goals.

For media, training, or other service inquiries, Contact Us.

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5.26.2021

The Importance of Relationships In Business

This past weekend, two of our team members spent their entire Saturday participating in an amazing event that benefits the children’s hospital and the cancer center in Madison where we have our main office. This was a reminder of how important and powerful relationships are in business.

While this seems like a “no brainer” to read, stop and think about all the jobs you’ve had – was building relationships always emphasized? Typically, when building relationships is not an emphasis, company culture suffers as does the long term vitality of the business. For a brand new business, without relationships you will be hard pressed to ever get things off the ground and even if you do, keep things going long term.

Here are four relationships that businesses must cultivate to achieve maximum potential: 

Relationships With Team Members

Everyone is busy. Stress comes with the territory when you are doing important work. Feeling connected is a constant risk these days as people are working remote more and more. But despite all these challenges and more, building relationships with team members is critical. In this article published last year, “little things” that make team members feel appreciated include:

  • Communication
  • Balanced Feedback
  • Flexibility

Simple acts of respect and graditude go a long way in getting the best your team members have to give.

Relationships With Prospects

Building relationships takes as long as it takes so this can be tricky when you have a new company and you need to get business in the door yesterday. However, you will find the prospects who have the time to get to know, like, and trust your company become some of your strongest client relationships and often turn into long term partnerships. Here are effective ways we build relationships with prospects:

  • Show up – Genuinely engage with people online or in person.
  • Share what you know about what they need to know – This is the basis of our marketing philospohy and you can read more about that here.
  • Root for them no matter what – You will win some and you will lose some in your business. Every prospect who doesn’t become a client is a potential friend, referral partner and/or a potential prospect again in the future.

Relationships With Clients

The quality of your client relationships determines if you jump out of bed to get back to work every morning or not. It’s either: “Ooo, what’s next!” or it’s: “Ugh, what now.”.

When you “do” prospect relationships well, you typcially “do” client relationships well too. If your client philosophy is partnership, then clients are much like team members in your world and communication, balanced feedback, and flexibility is important the same way it is when working with your internal team.

Relationships With Partners

Partnerships are the most overlooked potential relationship in business. Partners can be people who help you, people who refer you, people who take on opportunities you can’t and also refer opportunities to you that they can’t service. Everyone is a potential Partner – so proceed accordingly!

We all know that “business is about relationships”. But there are enough businesses in this world devoid of relationships so knowing and doing are not always the same thing. Building relationships in business takes a lot of time and a lot of effort, but it’s time and energy well spent in the end.

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5.18.2021

Give To Get – And 3 More Tips For Successful Marketing In Telecom

Marketing is simple, but it’s not easy. When Millennium Geospatial opened its doors nearly two years ago, we faced the question every startup faces:

Where will the business come from?

Yes, the telecom industry is in a “boom” status these days with companies in every corner of the world racing to provide and/or enhance Internet access. But anyone who has ever started and/or grown a healthy business knows that clients do not simply show up on your doorstep. Here are four tips for successful marketing in telecom:

Find Your Crowd

Once upon a time (i.e. before the Internet), everyone received information the same way: newspaper, phone book, word of mouth. Now, there are seemingly countless ways to “do your homework” and find what you need. There are not enough marketing dollars to “be everywhere” so the sooner you can crack the code on where your potential clients are, the better as you will then be investing your resources in getting the right message in front of the right people at all times.

Give To Get

While a “buy our stuff” marketing message works in some industries, no one is going to be moved to spend four, five, and often six figures on services, training, and/or consulting without learning a whole lot more about the company and what level of expertise they bring to the table. White papers, educational webinars, articles, testimonials, and videos are great ways to share useful content with prospects and clients.

Review The Data

Every business is different so there is no step by step guide to tell you where “your crowd” is or what educational content to create and share with them. This is why it’s critical to review the analytics of all marketing avenues you’re invested in to determine what’s working and what isn’t.

  • If you are investing in booths at trade shows, review the ROI after each and every show to determine if your process needs any adjustments as well as if the show is worth investing in next year.
  • If you are sharing content on social media, use Google Analytics to determine where traffic to your marketing materials is coming from. If you have heavy traffic coming from LinkedIn and no traffic coming from Instagram, guess where you will want to spend more time sharing marketing content?

Make Google Your Marketing Assistant

We mentioned Google Analytics in our last tip and it’s worth repeating: review the traffic to your web pages as well as the referral channels as often as possible.

You may have a wonderful idea to share information on a certain topic and you discover through your web stats that there is little to no interest in that topic. On the other hand, you notice another topic is being reviewed over and over again – give the people more of what they want and less of what you want!

The other way that Google is your marketing friend is through organic traffic. This is when people find your web pages online using search engines. While Google isn’t the only search engine, it’s by far the most popular one and crafting your online marketing so that it’s “search engine friendly” will help you bring new prospects into your world every day.

Simple? Yes! Easy? Not so much. Doable with a plan, consistency, and practice? You betcha!

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3.22.2021

Options For Learning GIS

We’ve staffed our consulting firm with nearly two dozen team members over the last two years and something that jumped out to us early on is that while a four year degree in Data (Data Science, Data Analytics, GIS…) is helpful, it’s by no means a requirement for success doing the work we do for clients. We have found that interest and strength in the following broad areas is incredibly useful for success in a GIS role:

  • Technological
  • Interested in solving problems
  • Attention to detail
  • Team player
  • Good written and verbal communication skills
  • Reliable
  • Good with deadlines
  • Ok with giving and receiving feedback

So, if the above bullet items are strengths of yours, you may want to explore a career in GIS! If you would like to get some classes under your belt to strengthen your resume, here are some options that we feel are worth exploring:

Google Data Analytics Certificate – This certificate is part of the “Grow with Google” program which provides training in high-growth fields. There are 8 courses, all of which are 100% virtual, self paced, and there are opportunities to work on real-world examples. There are scholarships available for this program as well.

Esri MOOCs – MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course and Esri is a software platform that much of the GIS functionality you see/experience is built upon. The Esri MOOCs are free, online, and self paced – though the courses do have a beginning and end date so you need to start/finish within that time frame.

Community Colleges – There are over 1000 community colleges in the United States and many offer credit and/or non-credit Data Analytics classes. Location is often moot since most community colleges now offer online options, but we’ll link to the community college in Madison – the city where we’re headquartered. Madison College offers a 3-5 course Data Analytics Badge.

Four Year Colleges – While we have team members who attend/have attended many colleges throughout the US, a high number of our interns are associated with University of Wisconsin Madison. The Data Science programs there are fairly new and growing rapidly. We were really impressed to learn about a class that’s currently offered at UW Madison called Data Science In Madison as the students tap into public data to solve real-time, real-world problems.

As you can see, there are ways to strengthen your resume for GIS positions that will fit any budget and any time table. From free to many thousands of dollars and from several weeks to several years – you can dive into the best fit for your goals. Pro tip: Enroll in a course and gain familiarity with GIS and then begin applying for internships and entry level positions – you can always continue your education while you’re working!

PS: We always include a handful of GIS jobs available around the world in our quarterly email newsletter. If you’re not signed up for the newsletter, click here to join the mailing list!

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3.15.2021

MEET THE TEAM: Will Berge – GIS Intern

This article original appeared in our quarterly email newsletter. Not receiving our newsletter? Click here to sign up!

We love writing about our team members because they are an integral part of the work that’s done at Millennium Geospatial each day and we want to let our readers “peek behind the curtain” any chance we get. We recently had a chance to talk to Will Berge from our Field Engineering department about “a day in the life” on his team.

Some people love spending all day in an office. Others have an affinity for working remotely; even if it means logging into Zoom for hours on end. Our team of field engineers mark the days on the calendar for whenever and however they can get outside and work in the fieldWe recently interviewed Will Berge from our field engineering team about a day in the life working outside the office and in the field on client projects.

Can you share a high level overview of a GIS field engineer’s process?

Sure. We kick off our work on a project from the desk. We collect land based data from various public GIS hubs and pull all of that data into ArcPro and put together a preliminary design. The time dedicated to this piece varies depending on the size of a project – anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. The last thing we do before going into the field is create maps that “live” in the cloud. We refer to this piece as “high level design”.

While our first steps can be handled by working with imagery and data from the office, our next steps require us to head out into the field to verify what’s “on the ground”. I love this part of the project! Out in the field we use a couple of field apps which are on our phones and tablets. We use these apps to verify information and move data back and forth. There are always changes between desk and field review and of course what we’re seeing out in the field is the real-deal/as it is today, which is important for our clients.

Once field work is complete, we can wrap up the project back in the office. At this point everything has been pulled together and what we call a low level design will now be created. There are several remaining steps before the finished product can be handed off to the client.

You’re working on several projects at any given time, but the common theme that runs through Millennium Geospatial projects is helping clients get broadband to more people. Sometimes it’s faster or better Internet, sometimes it’s simply providing access for the first time. With the massive gap in Internet access that’s been exposed during COVID, do you find the work that you do meaningful?

Yes, the work that we do is meaningful. In our particular area, the work we’re doing is like a mystery or a puzzle and every day we get to go about solving problems that will have a pretty big impact out in the world.

What’s something that you discovered working in the field that you never would have known by just working a project from the desk?

A few things. One is that there is no guarantee you’ll have (Internet) service out in the field. When you don’t, you have to make changes by hand and input the data into the system later.

Another is that there are always changes once you go out in the field to verify data. The data you collected at the office may be of an empty lot and then you get out in the field and find a house has been built there.

Finally, we’re the only people on the team that actually see the work areas and often the actual work being constructed. We get to interface with city officials and contractors. It’s really fulfilling to play a role in our projects at this level.

Will Berge is a GIS Intern at Millennium Geospatial and an avid outdoorsmen. Connect with him on LinkedIn and follow his beautiful photography on Instagram. Learn more about the MGS intern program here!

Interested in reading more about the work our team does? Click here to read our post titled From The Trenches: Real Stories From Our GIS Engineers!

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3.8.2021

Partner Spotlight: Interview With Bob Bartz From CHR Solutions

This article original appeared in our quarterly email newsletter. Not receiving our newsletter? Click here to sign up!

If nearly 25 years of industry experience has taught us anything, it’s that no one who has an ounce of success in the business goes it alone. We value the relationships that we have forged and continue to develop with clients and partners across the globe because not only does the work we do make others better, the experiences make us better as well.

We were fortunate enough to interview Bob Bartz from CHR Solutions recently about many things GIS – and fishing.

Kevin Maes: We’ve known each other for a long time, going back to the original Broadband Stimulus days over a decade ago. What’s different about the industry now than when we started working together?

Bob Bartz: Without question the thirst for bandwidth. Very few of us thought that the demand for broadband would become a necessity, a vital utility.

KM: In your experience, do you think that moving to a more GIS, data centric approach is the right move for companies today and if so, who do you think benefits the most from the investment?

BB: Anyone that is deploying a network and is not looking at GIS data and its value is missing the boat. The upfront investment to assure quality GIS data is being used in the engineering and design phases of deployment pays huge dividends to providers not only during the deployment of the network but how you sell and operate once the network is in place. The benefits of the use of GIS data can be realized by all segments of a providers business, planning and engineering, sales, operations, even finance.

KM: What’s been the biggest surprise to you related to the industry in recent years? The amount of Government funding available or the influx of private equity money are two that come to mind…

BB: Broadband networks have become the next essential utility much like electricity was a generation or two before us, this is what is driving investment dollars both private and public. If you would have said that broadband was the next electric utility 15-20 years ago there would have been a short line of believers.

KM: What do you think the industry will look like in 5 years?

BB: I sound like a broken record but broadband for everyone is real and will be achieved. The use of GIS data coupled with software focused on its use will drive the industry’s future. The data is getting smarter and smarter, we need to harness it’s power.

KM: Lastly, those that know both of us, know about our similar passion for Fly Fishing. With all the great waters out there (The Snake, Frying Pan and Upper Delaware Rivers come to mind for me), what do you think is the “Holy Grail” or said another way, the Lambeau Field of trout waters and why?

BB: Well I have always preferred quality over quantity, I like BIG fish. I haven’t fish them all but of the those that I have fished chasing big trout in the lower 48 it would be the White for Browns and the Kootenai for Rainbows – I have pictures to prove it. 

Bob is a Vice President at CHR Solutions. Headquartered in Texas, CHR is a leading provider of BSS/OSS Software, Broadband Engineering, and Managed IT and NOC services to Communication Service Providers (CSPs). Connect with Bob on LinkedIn.

Interested in reading other Partner Spotlights? Click here to read our interview with Zach Nienow from Ayres!

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3.1.2021

MEET THE TEAM: Alex Marinakis, GIS Engineering Lead

In our MEET THE TEAM series, we interview members of our team to help you get to know them personally and professionally. We continue the series with Alex Marinakis.

Education: BA Economics from University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2019, MS Business & Analytics from UMass Amherst in 2020

Experience: For the past year Alex has been learning the complexities of engineering high level and low level designs for a Fiber to the Home (FTTH) project in Maine. This project will also serve counties in Massachusetts, including Amherst, where he went to college!

Favorite Thing(s) To Do Professionally: Alex’s favorite thing to do professionally is design Fiber Optic Networks for clients. “It’s amazing to see a project evolve from just a few poles and strand to a beautiful network with rich data.” More recently Alex has also enjoyed taking on a role in managing a team and helping them learn the more complex aspects of the designs.

Favorite Thing(s) To Do Personally: Skiing at Wildcat Mountain, fishing with family in Rockport, listening to music or podcasts, playing video games, playing soccer with friends, watching any Boston sports team.

Little Known Fact: Alex has an identical twin brother and they have the same undergrad and graduate degrees!

Currently Working On: Alex is raising a 10 month old English Springer Spaniel named Ruby. They enjoy long walks and playing fetch with her frisbee.

Advice to someone entering this industry: Absorb as much as you can, there is always something to learn in this industry. GIS is an extremely versatile tool, and there are always new ways to improve the business. It is rare for me not to learn something new each week at MGS.

Interested in reading other MEET THE TEAM posts? Click here to meet Sam Szotkowski!

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2.17.2021

The Biggest Misconception About GIS

GIS is no doubt a game changer. We shared our perspective on “life” in our industry “before” and “after” GIS in the blog post we wrote to celebrate GIS Day a few months ago titled “Why GIS?”click here to check it out again.

While much has been written and demonstrated in the field about the power of GIS, misconceptions remain. The biggest misconception about GIS that we regularly encounter is that it’s too expensive and too complicated.

Like Comparisons

GIS is an investment, and sometimes it’s a significant investment. But the important thing to consider is like comparisons. GIS is more expensive than what? Traditional drafting and mapping tools and records systems? Possibly, but do the tools actually do the same thing? Is this a like comparison?

We won’t keep you waiting too long – the answer is: No, GIS vs. traditional methods are not a like comparison. Why not? Two words:

Spatial Analytics

Spatial analysis allows you to solve complex location-oriented problems and better understand where and what is occurring in your world. You can read more about spatial analysis in this article from Esri.

GIS allows you to solve location-oriented challenges. Examples:

Supply chain – It’s important to track inventory. For a company who has inventory in one place, a handful of customers buying a handful of whatever the company sells a few times a month, records managment can probably be pulled off with some fairly basic tools.

Now, think about the company with multiple locations, inventory sitting in multiple locations, hundreds to thousands of clients, also with multiple locations, hundreds to thousands of projects also with multiple locations. How can we track that? Using GIS.

Emergency response – We recently learned about how the health department in Linn County Iowa used GIS to help with the public health response to not one but two emergency situations in the past year. It’s impressive and worth sharing. Read all about their use of Dashboards here. Mapping Urgent Needs with Location Intelligence is the takeaway here, and it clearly can be a game changer.

Another example of using GIS to help solve public health issues involves the work an organization called Educate Girls is doing in India. In this TED talk, the organization’s founder explains that they were able to greatly improve their efforts when they started using GIS to more accurately determine the areas they needed to provide outreach to. To date they have been able to help more than 750,000 girls and realistically, without GIS, that number would be significantly lower.

While these two emergency response examples are not directly related to telecom, here are some ways to look at these solutions through a utilities lens:

  • Anticipating outages
  • Managing outages
  • Communicating with customers about outages

Education is a big componant of what we do here at Millennium Geospatial. We don’t anticipate ever being finished explaining the merits of GIS because it’s such a complex topic. If you take one thing away from this article, we hope it’s this:

Spatial analysis, combined with the ability to integrate with other existing systems within an organization is what will set companies apart from their competitors in the future. It’s not an if, it’s a when.

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2.11.2021

WISP Resources: WISP To FISP, A To Z: The Top 26 Questions We Receive From WISPs

We hear from a lot of WISP owners who are researching or in the process of shifting to a FISP model in their business. Like any big move in business (and in life!), there are a lot of questions that come with it. We’re fortunate to work with WISPs from around the globe who are at various stages of the process.

No matter where a WISP owner is doing business in the world or how big or small the project, we find that we field many of the same questions time and again. We’ve compiled the 26 most common questions and put the info into a new (and free!) PDF download titled WISP To FISP, A To Z: The Top 26 Questions We Receive From WISPs. You can access this resource by clicking here. We also want to share some of the questions included in the guide here on the blog – here are five of them!

Note: This information is accurate to the best of our knowledge, based on our experience in the field. Treat this information like a Wikipedia page – consider it a good resource but always double check whenever it comes to legal issues, insurance issues, permit issues, costs, and whatnot.

How much does it all cost?

While this is often the first question we’re asked, you really need to answer all the other questions on the list to come up with your answer because there are so many variables in these projects. Not the answer you’re going for, we know, but work through the rest of the questions on this list and we’re confident you will find yourself much closer to an answer on this one!

What architecture should I use? GPON or Active E?

Let’s lay out some of the merits of each option:

Active E (Active Ethernet) – Pros:

  • 1:1 ratio from the OLT to the customer premises – cleaner network
  • Can cover larger distances
  • Max speed regardless of number of users

Active E – Cons:

  • More expensive thank GPON

GPON (Gigabit Passive Optical Network):

  • Same signal to all end users
  • Last mile installations (~13 miles)
  • More reliable
  • Less expensive

In addition, with GPON, you must consider Centralized or Distributive Split:

Centralized: More traditional approach.

Distributive: Less flexible.

Aerial vs. Buried?

Let’s lay out some of the merits of each option:

Aerial – Pros:

  • Installation can be faster/not always as weather dependent
  • Less expensive on the front end (may cost more to maintain)
  • Since you can see the cable, you don’t have to pay for locates.

Aerial – Cons:

  • Make-ready costs (work on the poles before you can connect)
  • Existing Pole Logistics
    • Who owns?
    • Who maintains?
    • Access costs?
  • Weather/Environment (hurricanes and storms of any kind can be problematic)
  • More network flexibility
  • Equipment – Do you have access to what you need to do the work?

Buried – Pros:

  • Aesthetics – fiber can’t be seen.
  • Can be safer
    • Safer from weather elements
    • Danger of someone else digging
    • Out of sight, out of mind.

Buried – Cons:

  • Topography – The more challenging it is to dig, the more $
  • Equipment – Do you have access to what you need to do the work?
  • More labor intensive/higher costs

Are there grants, funds, or other loans – government or otherwise – for projects like mine?

Often the answer is YES! We’ll list a few resources for you to bookmark and keep an eye on, but as a rule of thumb many of the funds that come available for projects like this are somewhat state-specific so you will want to create Google Alerts for the following terms:

FTTH grants your state

FTTH funding your state

broadband grants your state

broadband funding your state

Not sure how to set up a Google Alert? This quick video will walk you through the steps!

How much do your services cost?

We’re GIS consultants which means we work with many companies, many different ways. Our services are well defined yet flexible so that you can involve us in your project as much – or as little – as you need/want to. Overall, most companies invest in a Feasibility Study that we prepare taking into account all of the info that we gather from you about your goals and your budget combined with the real-time data associated with the potential project area. Our team goes through the Feasibility Study with you so you are clear on how to interpret the data and you understand what your next steps can be.

As you can see, there are not many easy or cut and dry answers to any of this! If you’re interested in seeing the other 21 common questions we receive from WISPs? Grab your free copy of WISP To FISP, A To Z: The Top 26 Questions We Receive From WISPs by clicking here. We hope you find this guide helpful in your continued project research!

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1.25.2021

MEET THE TEAM: Sam Szotkowski – GIS Intern

This article original appeared in our quarterly email newsletter. Not receiveing our newsletter? Click here to sign up!

In our MEET THE TEAM series, we interview members of our team to help you get to know them personally and professionally. We continue the series with Sam Szotkowski.

  • GIS Intern
  • Based in the main office in Madison, WI
  • Connect with Sam on LinkedIn

Education: BS Engineering Mechanics & Astronomy, UW Madison 2019

Experience: For the past 9-10 months, Sam has been learning the ins and outs of fiber optic network design and putting that knowledge to the test by creating maps and analyses for clients. He started with very little knowledge about networks themselves, but with a programming-heavy research background and solid engineering education, he was able to quickly grasp our workflows and the software we use to produce maps, schematics, and engineering permits.

Favorite Thing(s) To Do Professionally: Sam enjoys the cartographic aspect of his job, synthesizing data and designs into legible and visually appealing maps. Beyond that, he finds the most satisfaction developing tools in Python, Javascript, or whatever the task requires to simplify workflows and minimize the manual effort required of his teammates.

Favorite Thing(s) To Do Personally: Sam likes to head off to the woods, mountains, desert, or anywhere really to go backpacking with his friends. When there’s not a pandemic he also enjoys martial arts and playing tabletop games like Catan and Dominion.

Little Known Fact: Sam’s first introduction to combat sports was in high school, learning boxing from his friend’s dad in their garage.

Currently Working On: Sam is taking online classes to learn digital signal processing as well as Chinese.

Advice to someone entering this industry: We interact with many tangential industries like municipal engineering departments, aerial imagery companies, radio tower owners, network equipment manufacturers, software engineers, etc. There is a place in telecom for all sorts of backgrounds and interests.

Interested in reading other MEET THE TEAM posts? Click here to meet Luke Blose! You can also learn more about our Intern program by watching the video below.

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1.20.2021

5 Ways Geospatial Data Integration Can Make Companies Better

Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.Alan Lakein

We consider incorporating GIS for Data Integration a future-thinking approach and investment because we fully acknowledge that data has been cared for in the telecom industry for well over one hundred years without the aid of GIS. But we do find that businesses get better when they focus on having quality data. Here are 5 ways GIS Data Integration methods are beneficial to telecom companies:

Under One Roof

We recently talked about the benefits of having data pulled together in one spot in our Construction Efficiencies post. When it comes to Data Integration, take everything you have learned about this concept one step further – now the real fun can begin:

More Bang For The Initially Intended Use Buck

Once you’ve brought your data “under one roof”, you can do things you couldn’t easily do before:

Combine legacy information/data with new information. Think about the potential of combining things like:

  • Billing records
  • Outage reporting
  • Prospecting
  • Predictive Analysis
  • And more

On top of combining the actual business data, you can also factor in, for example, weather data. Is there a correlation between outage data and weather data? Probably. Now that we know this, what steps can we proactively take to minimize risk?

“Predicting” The Future

Data in one place + combining data to derive patterns = often knowing what’s likely going to happen (or not happen). What does this mean in real terms?

  • Anticipating issues like outages before they actually occur
  • Anticipating potential billing patterns (particularly non-payment) based on economic data in the area
  • Anticipating who is still “out there” as a potential customer – more on this below!

“Better” Marketing

If your company uses an email marketing software, you may know that the software is likely built to know who has opened your marketing emails and who has not. Some email marketing software “knows” who clicked links in emails and who shared the emails with friends. The reason this is powerful is that you can send relevant information to people. If you have 100 people you’re communicating with, you can follow up with 50 people one way and 50 people another way based on actions they did or did not take. That’s “better” marketing.

Now let’s look at this in the context of Data Integration. Using data you can determine:

  • Who are your existing customers?
  • Who do you want as a new customer?
  • Where are they?
  • What products are available to them? There is nothing worse than offering services that people can’t actually get!
  • What programs are available? Monitor the data around subsidies in your service area(s) so you can give qualified potential customers the great news!

With filters like this in place, every dollar spent on marketing goes further because you have narrowed into a data set of mostly people who are likely interested in what you have to offer them.

Acquisition Value

It’s a given that knowing what you have and where you have it with your current customers and infrastructure can help you determine existing and potential value. Now think about if/when an investor comes along interested in acquiring your company. There is value in data. Clean data. Quality data. Forward thinking businesses should always keep the potential for acquisition in mind and plan accordingly. Data Integration is a powerful way to stay a step ahead of the competition.

Have additional questions about Data Integration? Contact us and we’ll let you know what might be the best next step based on your vision and goals.

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1.11.2021

5 Tips/Tools For Helping Companies Achieve Construction Efficiencies

Efficiency is one of those buzzwords that is equal parts exciting and intimidating. In this corner, we have EXCITING:

  • Faster!
  • Better!
  • More/At Scale!
  • Lower costs, over time!

And in this corner, we have INTIMIDATING:

  • Will jobs disappear?
  • Will customers be ok with it?
  • Aren’t those tools expensive?
  • How do we get the team on board with these changes?

Building efficiencies into a telecom business is critical to get/stay/remain competitive and relevant in today’s marketplace and we’re pleased to report that the tools for doing so are becoming more accessible and user friendly by the minute. Here are 5 tips/tools that are helping companies achieve construction efficiencies right now:

Have A Centralized Place For All Records (GIS or Otherwise)

While we think that GIS is the way to go, we understand that it’s not for everyone and/or it may take awhile to make a conversion. With this in mind, we strongly suggest that businesses have a centralized place/method for records regardless of format. Even if things are in csv, BI report, KMZ, etc, consolidate them. Why? For all the reasons that you would think:

  • Easier visibility into projects and records
  • Easier to track info
  • More accountability

Use/Convert To GIS Methods

The reason that GIS is the basis for most of the solutions we support clients with and through is spatial analysis. It’s undeniable that you can do so much more when you add spatial analysis to the mix. Think about info sitting in an Excel spreadsheet and then think of the same info sitting on a Dashboard with real-time updates (both are explained below). It’s a night and day difference.

Dashboards

It’s no secret that we’re big fans of Dashboards and frankly, so is much of the world these days. You can read all about Dashboards in this recent blog post we devoted to the topic. In terms of today’s topic of creating construction efficiencies, it comes down to the old saying: What’s measured is improved. Also:

  • Dashboards are the best way to visualize the data
  • Data is in one place
  • Data can be presented to/for multiple audiences

Real-Time Updates

Think about that encyclopedia set that sat on the shelf at your parent’s or grandparent’s house when you were a kid. The info was as up to date as when the creators hit the PUBLISH button and sent it to print. That was awesome for the times, but when we know better, we do better, and that’s why Encyclopedia Britannica stopped printing encyclopedias on March 13, 2012. Here in the land of telecom, some of the pros of real-time updates include:

  • Allows companies to be proactive versus reactive
  • Gives companies increased visibility
  • Allows for quicker hand offs
  • Allows for quicker billing

Field Apps

Using devices like iPads, iPhones, Android phones and the like out in the field are what enables real-time updates and reporting to occur. It works like this:

  • The device is programmed to be used specifically as a field app
  • People in the field enter updates (usually as easy as point and click)
  • Updates are reflected on the Dashboard
  • Rinse and repeat

Another benefit of using field apps is that the team out in the field becomes more engaged with the project management team. This is a win/win for everyone involved, including ultimately the consumer.

Efficiency is one of these things that everyone likes the idea of doing, but it can be challenging to figure out what to do and where to start. The tips we shared here run the gamut from really easy to implement to needing to make an investment of time, resources, and training. Regardless of where you fall on the range, just start somewhere because construction isn’t getting any cheaper so we have to take steps to be more efficient whenever possible. The smallest step, coupled with measurable results, can really be game changing for an organization.

Have additional questions about Construction Efficiencies? Contact us and we’ll let you know what might be the best next step based on your vision and goals.

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1.4.2021

5 Ways Companies Work With Geospatial Engineers

In any business, prospective clients – and even sometimes puzzled friends and family – regularly ask: “What do you do?” Hopefully the “elevator speech” that you worked for weeks or months on hits all the right notes with the person you’re speaking with and they reply:

“Awesome! I think we need THAT!”

Meanwhile, back here on earth, the reality is: that usually doesn’t happen. In our world, we’re often met with something like this:

“We already do engineering.”

It’s unfortunate when that’s the end of the conversation because there are many ways that Geospatial Engineers can support companies. Here are 5 examples:

The “Engineer’s Engineer”

This is not to be mistaken for being a helper or an assistant. This is:

Engineers with one skillset working in partnership with Engineers who possess another skillset to accomplish something bigger than could be accomplished before.

In this business, the key to success is a desire to solve problems, and this is the perfect storm for being able to do so in a huge and meaningful way.

Sometimes on projects certain requirements are needed. Examples include a P.E. stamp, a certain drawing or plan and profile. That’s where the Engineer’s Engineer can come in and bring value. They can provide that needed service and allow you to see the process in action. They can even guide you through the process which can clear a path for you to do what they do on your own some day. Think of it as more of a true consulting effort versus simply getting a certain task completed to get you to the next step in the process.

The “Staff Engineer”

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where—” said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

Similar to this exchange in the Alice In Wonderland story, it’s very easy to get to a point in a construction or Network owner business when you really don’t know the next steps. That’s not a signal of anything except HERE WE GROW, and that’s a really exciting thing for a telecom business.

In this scenario, a staff engineer can be a perfect fit on a project basis rather than long term. The need may change and the business may decide to grow an in-house engineering team down the road, but even that falls into the “How do we do that?” category (more on that later). Working with Engineering consultants allows a business to bring an already trained up A team to the party to dive in and be effective almost immediately.

The “Front End Engineer”

We see this scenario a lot with Network owners: up until this point the Network owner has been able to handle everything on their own. Then they reach a point where the next steps are getting too big to handle on their own. Not because they can’t as in they don’t know how but because they can’t  as in the projects are getting too big and the timelines quite short. In this case, retaining a Geospatial Engineer can allow for the up front Engineering needs to be cared for using GIS tools to keep things moving along quickly, and once the project is ready to go to construction the Network owner can step back in and manages the project themselves as they are accustomed to doing. Of course, this sounds like the dream scenario, and often it’s a great solution. On the other hand, there are times when having the added expense of a Staff Engineer is the better route long term.

“The Engineering Consultant Part 1”

The solutions provided by a Geospatial Engineering Consulting firm are highly scalable and can also help with the ebbs and flows of a business. Leveraging data allows a GIS consultant to get a quicker snapshot of a much larger project that is rooted in good data points to help clients make a more informed and ultimately better decisions. When we partner with businesses in this way, WE (everyone involved) can help drive efficiencies into the business as well. Examples include automating hand-offs, simplifying reports and getting the entire team working off the same “sheet of music”. Our “job” in this case is to help you simplify the complex.

“The Engineering Consultant Part 2”

We mentioned earlier that there are things our teams do for clients that we eventually teach our clients to do on their own. While not the norm (due to the costs associated with it), there are extreme instances when a company decides to build out their own in-house engineering department. Having built our firm from ground zero, we make sure clients considering this path understand how much time and resources the endeavor will require, and in the end there are times when this significant investment is the best next step. In these situations, an experienced Engineering Consultant can guide clients through everything that needs to happen from start up to ongoing. It’s a herculean effort and the right fit for a small number of companies. But when it is the logical next step, we’re equipped to guide companies through the process.

Now do you see why it’s so unfortunate when a conversation ends with “We already do engineering.”? There are so many different ways that Engineering Consulting firms can work together. There is so much work to be done in the marketplace now and in the future and it’s our sincere belief that the more companies work in partnership, the more opportunity there is for everyone which ultimately helps the consumer.

Have additional questions about Geospatial Engineering? Contact us and we’ll let you know what might be the best next step based on your vision and goals.

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12.28.2020

5 Reasons Why A Feasibility Study Is An Important Investment

If you build it, they will come.

Or will they?

This is “The $64,000 Question” that every Network owner is constantly asking themselves as they work to grow and scale their business. Ultimately, Network owners want to know:

  • What’s this going to cost?
  • What’s my take rate?
  • What’s the return on investment?

We talked about several things to consider when going through this process on our webinar and blog post titled: WISP To FISP: 5 Things You Should Know and ultimately, successful Network owners find that the next best step in the preparation process is to invest in a Feasibility Study. While it’s an upfront cost, and no one loves those, it’s an important one. It’s one of those things that can (and likely will) save a lot of dollars and headaches down the road and make it pretty crystal clear on what next steps should be (and when). Here are 5 reasons why a Feasibility Study is an important investment:

They Did What?

While Network owners typically have a good grasp on what’s going on in their market(s), it’s amazing how often we report that xyz company has begun to pull permits for an area and the Network owner wasn’t aware of it. This isn’t necessarily a show stopper, but level of competition in an area no doubt plays into return on investment. It’s one thing to do “rough math” on ROI potential and it’s quite another to dig into the data and come away with a sound estimate. Even if you spend 4-5 figures on a Feasibility Study and it doesn’t produce the information you were hoping for, it’s far better than discovering the same outcome 6 figures into the process.

Hidden Gems

Determining take rate is critical when moving forward with a network build. Using GIS tools, this potential can be determined quickly and easily. More often than not, Network owners discover there is more – or less – potential for their project as a result of a Feasibility Study.

Additionally, a good Feasibility Study will present a few options to consider: Consider building here now because ______ and then consider building there later or never because ______. The beauty of investing in a quality Feasibility Study is that you will have many data driven options to consider.

Variety Is The Spice of Life

A common question we receive is: How much will it cost to build a network?  We get it, and we can answer that, however, we need many details before we can give an answer that will be remotely useful. You may think: Well, you know the mileage and you know what materials cost. What else do you need to know? For starters…

  • Are you looking for the cheapest option?
  • Are you looking for the fastest option?
  • Are you looking for the best quality?

Of course, we want all of these things but, for example, cheapest AND best quality may not be possible. Lead times for particular materials may not line up with your deadlines. Certain ways of building are designed to deal with right-now-and-only-right-now and other methods set the stage for future expansion. A good Feasibility Study will never just put a cost out there and that’s that. It will instead offer up several options and combos so that a Network owner can land on a plan that meets their quality standards as well as their budget. 

Cooperation Is Too

Especially in the current climate of municipalities facing the hard truth that there is not adequate broadband in their community to support the needs of those living there, many Network owners are presenting their Feasibility Study to a municipality and proposing partnership to close the digital gap. While not always and certainly not a guarantee, this is sometimes a way to share the cost of a Feasibility Study which is a win-win for everyone. The big takeaway here is to think big and think outside of the box with your projects and your planning.

The Gift That Will Keep On Giving

It’s rare that we don’t see Network owners come away with far more potential projects than they thought they had before they had a Feasibility Study done. We also see Network owners come away with data that steers them away from what they had originally planned. The value of an in depth Feasibility Study from a quality GIS firm is that you have data – often more than you ever wanted to sift through – and that data turns into a business plan/roadmap that can keep a company growing and changing for years to come.

Have additional questions about Feasibility Studies? Contact us and we’ll let you know what might be the best next step based on your vision and goals.

If you’re a WISP considering a FISP model, complete this form and we will be in touch!

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12.15.2020

Partner Spotlight: An Interview With Zach Nienow From Ayres

This article original appeared in our quarterly email newsletter. Not receiveing our newsletter? Click here to sign up!

Leveraging technology and maintaining strong and healthy partnerships are two important pillars at Millennium Geospatial. They serve a practical purpose, but it also speaks to what’s important to our team and why we started this company in the first place.

We recently had a chance to interview Zach Nienow from Ayres Associates about the industry and the important space the services they provide occupy within the industry. This interview originally appeared in our email newsletter. If you’re not currently receiving our quarterly newsletter, click here to join the list!

Kevin Maes: You’ve been in this industry for over 15 years. What’s different about the industry now than when you started?

Zach Nienow: When I started in the geospatial industry, GPS technology was coming of age. I remember sitting in the field for 30 minutes waiting to get a fix on three different satellites. Now with GNSS technology, we can pick up 20+ satellites within just a couple minutes. This means higher accuracy positions more quickly and more reliably. This has fundamentally improved the geospatial field across all disciplines. From a remote sensing standpoint, it was a short 10 years ago that digital mapping cameras were coming into use commercially. Film cameras were the primary technology well into the 1990s and early 2000s. Film cameras typically captured approximately a square mile per exposure at 12-inch-pixel resolution. Today, digital cameras can capture 12-inch imagery across a 4 mile swath in a single flight line. This increased efficiency plus improved image quality has led to the wide adoption of high-resolution orthoimagery in Wisconsin and across the country. This imagery is now used in all fields, including utilities, real estate, emergency response, business analytics, and all levels of government.

KM: Can you talk more about geospatial mapping solutions using digital aerial imagery and lidar data? In your experience, who/what types of companies/projects benefit from this particular GIS investment?

ZN: Speaking of aerial imagery, it’s amazing to see what can be acquired cost-effectively these days. In Wisconsin, we are now acquiring 3-inch-pixel leaf-off aerial imagery across large regions of the state. Five years ago, this would have been considered impractical due to the size of the data and cost of collection and processing. And then you have UAS technology with an array of image-based systems that work quite well for smaller project areas. In fact, UAS can now be outfitted with metric cameras, which opens up the possibility of doing highly accurate image collection and then mapping from the data. UAS imagery systems are capable of capturing down to 1-centimeter pixel resolution, which means you can see and measure all pole attachments and strands for example.

Lidar technology has probably seen even greater advancement in the last 15 years. The fixed wing systems of today are capable of collecting 30 points per square meter on a countywide basis. UAS lidar systems, such as the one we have at Ayres, are capable of 100 PPSM over smaller areas. The accuracy and level of detail in these point clouds is incredible. More importantly it allows for the extraction of utility features that can be distilled down into base maps that include impervious surfaces, pole locations, pole attachments, 3D building models that can be used all the way from the planning process through engineering and construction phases, and for as-built asset management.

KM: Do you think geospatial technologies will help companies get fiber deeper into their networks to support 5G?

ZN: I see geospatial technologies supporting adoption of 5G already. Think of the aging electric distribution networks across the country. To be able to efficiently and effectively capture and extract an accurate geodatabase of your existing facilities becomes very important when adapting to new technology. There is the challenge of maintaining existing networks. And then there’s also the challenge of permitting for 5G facilities, the engineering aspects, and construction tracking. For engineering, you have to quickly assess the network, determine best locations for 5G facilities, and then do the engineering and construction. Geospatial data and resulting base mapping can help by modeling line of sight distances, terrain and building obstructions, and ultimately best-case positioning for 5G facilities.

KM: What’s been the biggest surprise to you related to the industry?

ZN: The adoption rate of geospatial technology in the telecom industry. It’s been amazing to see how the telecom industry has embraced geospatial as a means of being able to meet the high demand for increased service speeds and new tech like 5G. I can’t imagine building thousands of miles of fiber these days without tapping into the power of geospatial data and analytics at some level. I think we will also see the adoption continue to increase as the regulatory requirements and demand for services in urban areas increase, but also across the vast rural areas of our country that are currently underserved.

KM: What do you think the industry will look like in 5 years?

ZN: Good question. I would like to see electric utilities and telecom service providers move toward having really solid, up-to-date geospatial databases of their facilities – then drill down to capture pole information, points of attachment, and strands – and then do pole analysis and analytics using geospatial tech and advanced software. This level of data would be well served for maintenance of existing infrastructure, upgrades to the networks, and joint use permitting that is accurate and systematic. The technologies exist today to achieve these goals. Yet there is a lot of work ahead to collect all the data, create the network, and keep it current. I look forward to these challenges and the resulting successes over the next five years.

Zach joined Ayres in 2011 and currently serves as a senior project manager in the Geospatial Division. His team has expertise in highly accurate geospatial mapping solutions using digital aerial imagery and lidar-derived data. Common applications include energy corridor mapping, distribution network mapping, county and statewide orthoimagery and lidar, and planimetric mapping for engineering, highway design, and environmental monitoring.

Interested in reading other Partner Spotlights? Click here to read our interview with Stacia Canaday from Esri!

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11.18.2020

Why GIS?

We’ve put together this blog post in celebration of GIS Day 2020! If you or the company you work for are already using GIS then you already know why it’s “the way to go” at this time in technology history. If you’re new to this, or on the fence about the benefits of utilizing GIS in your business, this article is for you! Before we begin, here is a definition of GIS from the Esri website:

A geographic information system (GIS) is a framework for gathering, managing, and analyzing data. Rooted in the science of geography, GIS integrates many types of data. It analyzes spatial location and organizes layers of information into visualizations using maps and 3D scenes. ​With this unique capability, GIS reveals deeper insights into data, such as patterns, relationships, and situations—helping users make smarter decisions.

Before GIS

Before GIS was “a thing”, all of the planning, implementation, and management of telecommunication and broadband networks was done manually. When we say manually, we mean by hand. People would have to go out to proposed build sites and hand draw what they saw and then the handwritten notes could be taken back to the office and entered into a system like AutoCAD so that “maps” could be generated based on the data that was entered into the system.

When this was the only method, it “was what it was”. Now that it’s not the only method, it’s an option that’s incredibly time consuming, relies on humans “getting it exactly right” on every level within the process, and the end product is simply a digitized version of what was originally created with pencil and paper on that specific date and time in history.

After GIS

Technology has now made it so that the info that people manually went out and observed can be ascertained online. That data can be fused with geospatial data (think Google Maps) and the data can be updated – because this info is constantly changing – online and in real time. In essence, you create a “digital twin” – think records that actually mirror what is out in the field at all times.

Additionally, there are other invaluable variables that you can easily add in to your data by layering other data in. Factors like weather patterns and census data allow for better, more accurate data to help projects be more efficient once it’s go-time.

You may be thinking: You are grossly oversimplifying this, company whose business IS GIS! because it really can sound too good to be true. But, we’re not. Sure, you have to invest in GIS tools and employees who know how or can learn how to operate those tools. But is that investment all that more significant when you can take significant amounts of time, travel, and inaccuracies out of the equation?

GIS has been a game changer in our industry. It has allowed companies to massively ramp up efficiencies – do more, faster, more safely, and more accurately. It has allowed for services to get into the hands of people who need and want it faster than ever before. While we have a long way to go in closing the digital divide, leveraging technology is a clear path for providers to do their part to make that happen as efficiently and as cost effectively as possible.

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11.3.2020

PRESS RELEASE: Millennium Geospatial Recognized As 2020 Emerging Partner By Esri

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 11/3/2020

Kevin Maes
Millennium Geospatial
608.949.9005
kevin.maes@millenniumgeospatial.com

Millennium Geospatial Recognized As 2020 Emerging Partner By Esri

GIS consulting firm receives award from Esri co-founder Jack Dangermond during IMGIS Conference

Madison, Wisconsin: On October 28, 2020, Jack Dangermond, co-founder of Esri named Millennium Geospatial the winner of Emerging Partner at Esri IMGIS Conference 2020. The award recognizes Millennium Geospatial for its ongoing partnership and contributions to the Esri GIS community.

“We are extremely honored to receive this year’s Emerging Partner award from Mr. Dangermond and the entire Esri team. The Esri platform is the foundation for much of the work that we do with and for our mutual customers and we are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to be a part of leveraging cutting edge technology in powerful ways that are reshaping Internet access around the world,” said Kevin Maes, VP of Engineering at Millennium Geospatial.

“It’s an honor to receive the Emerging Partner Award from Esri in the first year of our partnership. Esri and our software engineers have worked closely to develop custom solutions to help legacy engineering firms and service providers collect and visualize data in real-time to accelerate network builds, marketing efforts, and communication with field crews in a way that is new to our industry. We plan to continue to leverage our relationship with Esri and be part of the change in Telecom engineering that helps to elevate the entire industry with our peers.”, said James Kyle, Founder & CEO of Millennium.

“This award is in recognition of being a valuable partner and supporting our GIS user community, we appreciate all the work that you do in making our customers successful,” said Mr. Dangermond.

“Job well done by you and the Millennium Geospatial team. Your partnership with Esri is extremely valuable. Thank you so much for all your hard work and congratulations!” said Susan Powell, Partner Executive, Utilities & Telecom at Esri.

The Esri IMGIS Conference 2020 was held virtually from October 27-30, 2020. Due to the virtual nature of this year’s conference, the partner awards were presented during the plenary session on day two of the conference and awards were mailed directly to recipient’s locations.

About Millennium Geospatial: Established in 2019, Millennium Geospatial was developed to work in partnership with Broadband Service Providers, Telecommunication Construction Companies and Engineering Consultants to address their Data, Engineering, & Project Management needs with custom created field applications, dashboards, and data integration. With project experience in 40 of the 50 states as well as Canada, the Millennium Geospatial team has a deep understanding of the business challenges that their clients experience. Millennium Geospatial has positioned itself to work with their clients to provide GIS solutions that are unique to the needs of the client’s project and overall company goals.

For media, training, or other service inquiries, Contact Us

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10.28.2020

Partner Spotlight: An Interview With Stacia Canaday From Esri

Leveraging technology and maintaining strong and healthy partnerships are two important pillars at Millennium Geospatial. They serve a practical purpose, but it also speaks to what’s important to our team and why we started this company in the first place. Our partnership with Esri checks both of these boxes, and we recently had a chance to interview Stacia Canaday from the Esri team about how their platform plays such an important role in the work we do for and with our clients. This interview originally appeared in our email newsletter. If you’re not currently receiving our quarterly newsletter, click here to join the list!

Kevin Maes: You’ve been in this business for nearly 20 years. What’s different about the industry now than, say, 10 years ago?

Stacia Canaday: In 2010, telecoms generally perceived GIS as a heavy-duty desktop technology that you needed a college degree to use. GIS was relegated to a windowless basement office where they maybe printed out paper maps once a year. If they were lucky, they could convince field techs to relinquish their old paper maps from underneath the seat of their truck with a up-to-date set and that was how maps were shared across the organization. 

Now, the industry is moving towards the idea of GIS as an ecosystem of targeted applications designed to help each employee make the right decision at the right time. Everyone within the organization uses a central map portal to author information about the business, share access securely to that spatial information, analyze or ask questions with the information, and ultimately act or make decisions based on what the information tells them. I think technology has finally caught up to the way telecoms wanted to work and collaborate all along. The advent of web services and growing adoption of cloud technologies makes a complete GIS more accessible to everyone in the telecom industry, from small outfits to the largest operators.

KM: It’s evident that there is a massive emphasis on training and education at Esri which we’ve really appreciated and benefited from here at Millennium Geospatial. Can you share examples of how and why it’s important to educate and empower users of Esri’s tools?

SC: I’m so glad you asked this question – I began my career at Esri in the Educational Services department, teaching GIS classes. So I definitely have thoughts on this topic! From my own personal experience both as an instructor and directly working with telecommunications companies, It’s clear proper training and ongoing staff development are critical to the success of projects and retention of employees. I can’t tell you how many times someone expressed something along the lines of, “I struggled for two weeks to figure out a workflow/task but within 20 minutes the instructor explained it to me.” 

Here at Esri, we invest around 30% of our annual revenue back into product research & development, which is unusually large for a technology company. That means our products are constantly evolving and changing, based on what we hear from our customers. That near constant evolution and growth also means it’s even more important to stay up to date on best practices and new technology. Just like you wouldn’t let someone without training operate a trencher or splice fiber optic cable, you shouldn’t let people with no training manage one of your most precious assets: maps and spatial data.

A common barrier to investing in staff development is the feeling that, “What if I invest in staff training and then employees leave the organization?” To which I respond, “If the alternative is you don’t invest in their training and then they stay, then, yes, I think that’s a much smaller risk.” There’s been a handful of times a telecom company experiences downtime on a mission critical GIS application simply because users didn’t understand how to best set it up or manage it. A small annual investment in ongoing training pales in comparison to the costs incurred when your locate screening app or serviceability app is unavailable.

KM: Do you think 5G will have an impact on a company’s decision-making around getting fiber deeper into their networks?

SC: The amazing promise of 5G doesn’t mean fiber is dead, it’s quite the opposite. It means more fiber will be added to the transport network; fiber densification will occur for years to come and traditional carriers will increase the outsourcing of design and construction of these networks to keep up with their 5G wireless network buildout demand. Automated fiber route planning and design, along with project job tracking will be key to optimizing fiber routes and making sure designs are not happening on top of each other. Verizon’s One Fiber initiative is great example of a carrier rallying around their broadband transport network and stating that it doesn’t matter if they are building fiber for enterprise B2B services or small cells, they’ll be strategically designing and building fiber that supports all their broadband services. This approach eliminates stove-piped design and buildout from different teams across Verizon, and across their contractors. 

So, with all the fiber planning, engineering, and construction that will occur to support 5G, what’s the one aspect that ties each stage of the design process together and can bring design firms, contractors, and carriers together? Location. Location is creating a common reference system. Maps are used today to plan fiber routes, redline in the field, perform engineering, submit permits, and provide construction prints. I am yet to meet a telecom organization who hasn’t tried to get maps to someone inside or outside the company. Although all these workflows are inherently geographic, output and work product often devolve to paper maps or spreadsheets. Sharing these flat files around creates confusion and chaos creating many uncertainties. Who created this design? When was it last updated? Do I have the authoritative version? Processes are delayed and permits are often lost due to the sheer amount of time it takes to decipher uncontrolled documentation and workflows.

Since location is the unifying factor in the design process, and everyday more designs are being created to support fiber densification, design firms and carriers are looking to a more complete enterprise approach to mapping. If each party involved in planning, design, permitting, construction, and operations used the same set of maps, a near real-time operational awareness can be achieved. Everyone with a stake in the project would know exactly the current status, challenges, and future plans, all within a context everyone understands: a map.

KM: What do you think the industry will look like in 5 years?

SC: Currently a handful of really forward-thinking telecommunications companies are incorporating spatial analysis and location intelligence into their enterprise big data and business intelligence workflows. I suspect that trend will become the norm over the next five years as more and more telecoms become woke (as the kids say) to the significant insight geography and location brings to their business. Since practically every aspect of a telecommunications company involves location, it’s surprisingly hard to think of a project or KPI that couldn’t be enhanced with the addition of spatial visualization or analysis. 

The work Millennium Geospatial is doing around construction dashboards is relevant to this topic. Instead of relying on gut feelings or written construction updates, your team is visualizing actual construction progress on a map and using near real-time data to communicate what’s really going on. This just one example of a telecom workflow that is significantly enhanced because of data-driven insights. Another telecom company we work with is using space-time cubes to make predictions on customer behavior on their network or likelihood of asset failure. 

I sense the industry is on the precipice of leveraging powerful scientific analysis tools within their own business data in order to make a big difference on the bottom line.

Stacia joined Esri over 18 years ago and currently serves as a Sales Manager responsible for business development within the telecommunications & cable industries in the US. Stacia leads a team of account managers & executives who partner with their customers to truly understand their businesses and apply the Science of Where to address challenges and leverage opportunities.

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10.1.2020

Using Dashboards Effectively In Telephony

While telephony has been around for a long time, technology has become the game changer that has moved the industry forward. For the provider, this is true at the nuts and bolts materials level of fiber optics and it’s also true at the planning, implementation, and management level of the industry. The team at our sister company Millennium assists customers with the materials to make fiber projects tick and our team at Millennium Geospatial works with companies to plan, implement, and manage fiber projects.

We find that most companies that we work with need/should have a Dashboard to help them manage projects as well as overall efficiencies within their company. Once organizations understand what a Dashboard is and what it can do, they usually agree and invest in a Dashboard for their projects.

What is a Dashboard?

By now, everyone on the planet has likely interacted with a Dashboard. The COVID19 Dashboard built and maintained by Johns Hopkins University is one of the most widely known and used Dashboard in existence at this time. We all are able to see rates of infection at any given time and in any given place using that map. The data is easy to see and use and it updates in real-time using geospatial data.

Who uses a Dashboard?

Anyone who needs/wants to measure something that involves geographic locations can benefit from having and using a Dashboard to track data. We find that there are 3 types of Dashboards that are the most useful to companies:

Operational

An operational Dashboard will tell you what’s happening in real time. The Johns Hopkins Dashboard is an example of this. We use Dashboard technology on this very website to update the map documenting our past projects so that visitors can interact with the data and assess our experience in a very hands on way before they even have to reach out and connect with us. Operational Dashboards are utilized in areas of the business where day-to-day monitoring is needed.

Strategic

A strategic Dashboard contains less nitty gritty detail and is ideal for members of an organization that want to review high level data. If decision makers in an organization need/want to project where to focus resources in the future, a strategic Dashboard can help present the data in a way that makes high level decision making more effective.

Analytical

An analytical Dashboard creates an environment that allows users to dig deeper into data. While productivity is something that can be viewed as a high level, using an analytical Dashboard allows a user to dig into crew productivity, supervisor productivity, daily production, yearly production and more.

Can’t decide which kind of Dashboard to go with? No worries – data can be tabbed within the Dashboard framework so that every department can see what the need to see in the way they need/want to see it.

How long does a Dashboard last?

Geospatial data is fluid and a Dashboard can continue to be effective for as long as data is being fed into it. Dashboards are the business tool gift that truly keeps on giving!

Interested in seeing this information as a story map? Click here and check it out!

Every Dashboard is built custom to the needs of the team(s) that will be using it. If you’re interested in discovering how a Dashboard can help your team, please be in touch!

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9.22.2020

Harnessing The Power of Story Maps in Esri

Before COVID19, had you ever seen data presented in a Dashboard format? Probably, though you may not have noticed. Dashboards have really pushed into the mainstream since COVID19 as many organizations document, in this case positive test results, using a Dashboard. The COVID19 dashboard that is the most well known is the one maintained by Johns Hopkins University.

Many of the dashboards we see these days are “Powered By Esri”. We are a proud partner of Esri, and in addition to creating and maintaining dashboards, our team uses many more of the tools within Esri to support our clients in a variety of ways. One tool that we use near the end of our projects is the story map tool. Kaitlyn Bisping from our Intern team took some time recently to explain this tool and why we love it so much at Millennium Geospatial!

Please describe the story mapping tool – what goes into making it “work”?

KB: Esri has great tools for making story maps. They have had “Classic Storymaps” which was the original tool to create story maps. This version is still available, however, Esri has recently developed a new tool which is located at storymaps.arcgis.com where we can create story maps directly within the tool (before you would need to make a map separately in ArcGIS Online). The Esri story map builder makes it easy to find and identify locations, and they provide a variety of ways to portray that information.

We receive a ton of positive feedback on our story maps – which is awesome! What do you find are some of the common themes when we receive feedback?

People seem to really enjoy visual storytelling and that’s exactly what we’re doing with one of our story maps. When prospective clients wonder how we may be able to help them with their immediate needs or even future goals, it’s helpful for them to see real case studies in this format. It’s not that we haven’t been able to put together useful presentations up until now, but the story map presents such an elegant way to consume the information. No more slide shows with a video embedded that once you click it takes you out to YouTube to consume! I think the enjoyable part about story maps is certainly the visual aspect but also the fact that all the information you need is integrated into a single location.

Also, unless you are an exceptional writer, it is difficult to create a captivating story with only words. Pictures, charts, descriptive text, video and of course maps, all go into making an interesting story. As a geography lover, I understand how important portraying location is when illustrating an issue or topic.  However, people from all different backgrounds are able to present their stories and easily incorporate those spatial components. I know when I read through a good story map, I love that it is much more interactive and easy to follow than say a simple news article, and I think that is a common feeling among people these days.

How long does it take to make a story map? Where is it hosted? Are they updated in real time or when it’s done it’s done?

The time involved to make a story map definitely ranges. If you are starting from total scratch, it can take quite a while to build because there are a ton of moving parts. All of the story maps we create at Millennium Geospatial are created using Esri and hosted on an Esri server. We can continuously update a story map and real-time data that we may have embedded into a story map (such as Dashboards) update in real time.

How do we determine what to put into one of our story maps for a completed project?

Honestly, this is the most difficult part for me when creating a story map. I start with a general case study outline: background information, the problem, the approach, the outcome and conclusions and then I grow the story map from there. It’s important to make sure the text is informative and engaging, yet concise – and this can be a difficult task!

Also, landing on the best way to visualize the information can be a challenge. Should certain parts be portrayed in a map? How can this part easily flow to the next section? What can I do to keep things varied and engaging, but also organized with a general theme? These are some of the questions I am constantly pondering as I create a story map.

What is one of your favorite features of the tool?

I really enjoy working with the latest story mapping tools within Esri because they allow you to make beautiful maps so quickly and easily. Overall, I love seeing what others have created and learning about all different topics in this format of storytelling. Esri allows people from all backgrounds to convey their story in a unique manner!

Kaitlyn Bisping is a GIS Engineering Lead at Millennium Geospatial. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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8.10.2020

WISP Resources: WISP To FISP: 5 Things You Should Know (Webinar + Checklist)

We are fortunate enough to meet and talk with many WISPs about their plans and goals around shifting from a WISP to a FISP model in their business. Since we’ve been through this process in partnership with companies many, many (many!) times, we have become a trusted resource for laying out everything a WISP owner needs to consider in this process.

The webinar below runs through the top 5 things companies should know as they are considering or gearing up for this shift.

You can obtain the Checklist referenced during the session by clicking here.

No time to take notes during the session? No problem! We’ve laid out the main points below – feel free to print them out and reference them as you move forward with your project!

Who should consider shifting from WISP to FISP?

Ask yourself this question: Do you want to play offense or defense with your business strategy? Not into sports analogies? Try this instead: Do you want to be proactive or reactive with your business strategy? If you answered “offense” and/or “proactive”, then you may be ready to make the jump from WISP to FISP.

What should you do?

When it comes to making this shift, there is no one-and-only way to do it. Here are some things to consider – Do you want…

  • Cheapest?
  • Fastest?
  • Best quality?

We know: ALL OF THE ABOVE! But it doesn’t work that way, so think about what is of the utmost importance to you and this will help to drive what you will need to do.

When is the right time to make the shift?

Clients we have worked with always say NOW or YESTERDAY once they are on the other side of the project, so know that the feelings of uncertainty do tend to fade. Until then, ask yourself is it:

  • Financially feasible?
  • Time to upgrade anyway?

Also consider:

  • Time of year – is it a factor?
  • Is there competition nearby?
  • Are we interested in a long-term or short-term investment?

Where should you do it?

  • What makes the most sense?
  • Do we want to focus on our current footprint or edge out at this time?
  • Home density
  • Proximity to Transport Network
  • Take rates? Highest first?

Why should we make this shift?

  • Does the business case make sense?
  • Economics/rate of return
  • Is there funding available?
  • Is a long-term presence in the community a goal?

How can we get this up and rolling?

  • Funding – Grants, Loans, State, Federal, RDOF…
  • Timing
  • Sign-ups/Pre-sale customers
  • Marketing (Announcements, Door Hangers…)
  • Project Management
  • Customer Complaint Management

INTANGIBLES – There is ALWAYS something!

  • Things we didn’t think would be a problem…
  • Things we thought would and weren’t…
  • Contracts
  • Warranty/Retainage/Liquidated Damages
  • Permits /Fees/Liabilities
  • Established yards, concrete driveways, etc.
  • Clean Up/Restoration
  • Take Rates, Drops and Splicing (Track?)
  • As-Builts and Records going forward? Options
  • Ongoing maintenance and outages (Master Contract?)
  • The impact of Social Media on build (Positive and Negative)

Are you still with us? We know, it’s A LOT to consider. If you have questions, we’re always happy to help – click here to contact us!

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7.21.2020

MEET THE TEAM: Luke Blose, GIS Implementation Manager

In our MEET THE TEAM series, we interview members of our team to help you get to know them personally and professionally. We continue the series with Luke Blose.

  • GIS Implementation Manager
  • Also trains team members in the Millennium Geospatial Internship Program
  • Based in the main office in Madison, WI
  • Connect with Luke on LinkedIn

Education: BS Business Administration Western Michigan University, FTTH certification in November 2017

Experience: For the past 4 years Luke has been engineering large-scale fiber optic networks for clients accross North America. He’s worked on fiber optic overbuilds in southern and central Wisconsin to provide more reliable, higher speeds, and more bandwidth to customers. Luke also recruits, trains and mentors members of the MGS Internship program.

Favorite Thing(s) To Do Professionally: Luke enjoys the relationships he is able to build in the industry, as well as working with the technology through new tools and engineering practices. Getting out in the field, teaching and leading eager professionals, and assisting in the process of providing broadband to people in need are some of the things that make his job enjoyable.

Favorite Thing(s) To Do Personally: Hunting, fishing, traveling, golf, boating, cook outs.

Little Known Fact: Luke was born on Groundhog Day!

Currently Working On: Luke enjoys studying waterfowl hunting tactics and techniques year round, to improve his chances of success during the fall season.

Advice to someone entering this industry: Don’t be afraid to ask questions and make mistakes, but always make it a point to learn from your mistakes. There are a lot of opportunities to grow throughout your career. Leave your comfort zone every chance you get!

Interested in reading other MEET THE TEAM posts? Click here to learn more about Thomas Mattimiro!

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6.16.2020

The Internship Program At Millennium Geospatial

While there are more and more opportunities to study GIS in college, hands-on experience is an invaluable opportunity for any self-starter with curiosity and interest in maps and technology to try out a career in GIS. The Intern program at Millennium Geospatial was created to give people a paid opportunity to learn GIS and make a difference in communities where their projects are located.

Think about how time was/is spent during the pandemic of 2020. People around the globe have relied on an a daily Internet connection to connect with others personally and professionally. This quickly revealed where imporvement is needed for better access and connectivity. Many of our projects involve helping clients be a part of that solution.

Recently, several of our interns created a video to share what it’s like to work in GIS and on the Millennium Geospatial team. They did a great job producing this piece and we hope you find it informative and helpful.

Interested in learning more about the Millennium Geospatial internship opportunity? Click here to review the role description and learn where/how to apply!

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6.3.2020

FREE WEBINAR: WISP To FISP: 5 Things You Should Know

On Friday, June 19, 2020 at 10am Central, Kevin Maes from the Millennium Geospatial team, Josh Luthman from Imagine Networks LLC and Brad Morrow from CommScope will be presenting a free informational webinar titled:

WISP To FISP: 5 Things You Should Know

Millennium Geospatial worked with Josh to help build a new fiber network in Troy, OH. The information they will share on this webinar will be based on “we wish we had known/thought about this before…” and “based on what we know now…”. CommScope also brings valuable insight to this session from a materials standpoint. Some of the points that will be covered on the webinar include:

  • Who should do this?
  • What should you do?
  • When is the right time?
  • And more!

Click here to register for the webinar!

Kevin Maes brings 20+ years of outside plant engineering and construction experience to his role of VP of Engineering at Millennium Geospatial. Working with companies to generate and execute the best, most cost efficient plans for projects is what he enjoys most about his work. Connect with Kevin on LinkedIn!

Josh Luthman brings over 13 years of experience as the owner, operator, and President of Imagine Networks LLC in rural Ohio. Connect with Josh on LinkedIn!

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4.27.2020

MEET THE TEAM: Thomas Mattimiro, GIS Manager

In our MEET THE TEAM series, we interview members of our team to help you get to know them personally and professionally. We continue the series with Thomas Mattimiro.

  • GIS Manager
  • Also trains team members in the Millennium Geospatial Internship Program
  • Based in the main office in Madison, WI
  • Connect with Thomas on LinkedIn

Education: BS Physics University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, FTTH certification in November 2018

Experience: For the past 2 years Thomas has been engineering large-scale fiber optic networks for clients accross North America. He’s worked on fiber optic deployments in New York state that were funded through the state’s broadband initiative. Recruits, trains and mentors members of the MGS Internship program.

Favorite Thing(s) To Do Professionally: Thomas enjoys the autonomy that his position allows for as well as working with the technology, learning new tools that are coming available, training and teaching enginnering team members as well as leading the intern program at MGS.

Favorite Thing(s) To Do Personally: Ultimate Frisbee and Hiking

Little Known Fact: Gumby was invented in Thomas’ hometown of Hastings, MN!

Currently Working On: Thomas is hoping to coach Ultimate (Frisbee) in the near future. He’s interested in sharing his love of the game with high school and and middle school-aged kids.

Advice to someone entering this industry: There is a lot of opportunity. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be intimidated by lack of experience. It helps if you enjoy independence. You will likely get farther ahead faster if you’re inquisitive.

If you enjoyed this blog post, click here to sign up to receive an email whenever a new post is published. This way you will never miss any information!

Interested in reading other MEET THE TEAM posts? Click here to learn more about Kevin Maes!

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4.21.2020

From The Trenches: Real Stories From Our GIS Engineers

This article was written by Taylor McMaster from the MGS team and originally appeared in our Q1 2020 email newsletter. Not receiving the newsletter yet? Click here to join the list!

Out in the field, you never know what to expect.

Not too long ago we received a field assignment to review a few handholes that we couldn’t locate from satellite imagery – three handholes to be exact. The project area was in the eastern part of Madison, WI along I-90. Knowing that we had to pop open a few handholes, I needed to find some help to lift those heavy things.

I tapped our most seasoned intern, Austin, to assist. The first handhole we found ended up having its own little ecosystem hiding inside:

See them? Look closely…

The second handhole had its own surprise in-store. It wasn’t actually a handhole, but rather an exposed manhole:

We searched for the third handhole, but could not locate it. We noticed an orange marker post off in the distance. After walking up to the orange post, we still didn’t see the handhole the marker is supposed to highlight. Then I noticed a piece of barbed wire sticking out of the ground. 

I yanked and yanked on the barbed wire and discovered the wire was anchored to something. It was wired to the handhole grip and the handhole was camouflaged with mud. The last person to open that handhole used barbed wire to lift it…

Out in the field, you never know what to expect.

Taylor McMaster in an Engineering Manager at Millennium Geospatial. Connect with him on LinkedIn. Austin West is a Geospatial Engineer in the MGS Intern Program. Interested in joining the MGS team? Contact us!

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3.24.2020

The Millennium Ecosystem

Millennium Geospatial exists to help aid Rural Utility Co-Ops, Wisps, Construction companies and Independent Network providers with their Engineering & Design needs. In a nutshell: we want to Connect Rural America. We’re putting a good dent in that goal – check out our every changing service map for current and past projects.

In addition to our services which include Feasibility Studies, Geospatial Engineering, Project Management and Records Integration, there are other ways that we are helping to Connect Rural America and we refer to this as The Millennium Ecosystem:

At Millennium, we’re more than a materials supplier. We’re redefining what a distributor means. As a nationwide distributor of fiber optic network materials that build telecommunication networks, Millennium offers a host of solutions to help providers. Examples include introducing new technologies that will make networks more reliable, managing project and material needs and the rental and leasing of capital equipment.

To learn about how WaveDirect Telecommunication – a Rural High Speed Internet carrier in Ontario, Canada worked with MGS and Millennium on a recent project by clicking here.

To discover how Imagine Networks – a High Speed Internet company in Ohio worked in conjunction with MGS and Millennium on a recent project, click here.

At Millennium Leasing, we can make capital equipment available to our customers so they can put their materials to work and keep projects moving on schedule. For example, WaveDirect Telecommunication – the company referenced above – obtained splicing training through Millennium Leasing at the office in Delevan, WI before investing in splicing equipment for the company.

Overall, it’s our goal to make an experience with Millennium Geospatial (or any of the companies within The Millennium Ecosystem) much more than a one-time, transactional thing. We are here to support and collaborate, to plan and to strategize, to engage and connect people with the best resources to meet their current and future needs. We believe that there is a lot of work to be done, and we’re all in this together. We’re proud to have a multifacited ecosystem to work within so that we can serve our customers well.

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3.23.2020

How To Use Zoom For Online Meetings

Online meetings are not a new concept in general, but they are a very new concept for millions of people around the world. In the telecom industry, there are many meetings to be had, and these meetings can happen virtually much of the time thanks to technology that has become inexpensive to obtain and easy to use.

We’ve used Zoom as well as Google Hangouts for meetings within our team as well as with prospects and clients and we find Zoom is software that just about everyone can figure out in the fastest amount of time and with the least amount of stress. With more and more companies having to take business 100% online for now, it’s important that everyone have a way to connect/feel connected. We wanted to share the steps for getting up and running with Zoom here in a blog post that we can easily share online with anyone who can benefit from the information. We hope this is helpful as you shift much of your daily office activities to the virtual environment.

Desktop Steps – If You Are Using A Computer/Laptop

1. Go to Zoom.us

2. Click/Enter This Info:

A screen will pop up asking you to confirm the email address you entered:

There will now be a message on the screen telling you to check your email inbox. There will be an email from Zoom to confirm your email address again – this will activate your new Zoom account:

Once you click on the “Activate Account” button in the email referenced above, you will be logged in to your new Zoom account. You will land on this screen where you need to enter your name and password you want to use when you log in to Zoom:

On the next screen you can invite other people to sign up for Zoom – not necessary at this point. Just click “Skip This Step”. Important Note: The person/people you meet with via Zoom DO NOT NEED TO HAVE A ZOOM ACCOUNT TOO. You will be sending them a link and/or a meeting id and they can use that info to enter YOUR meeting.

On the next screen, there will be a link. This is your meeting link. You can use it over and over. Go ahead and click the link on your screen now and “practice” using Zoom. We promise, you cannot break anything!

Copy/paste the link referenced above so you have it for future use. Important Note: You can access this link at any time by following these steps after you have an account:

1. Go to Zoom.us

2. Click “Sign In” in the top right corner of the screen.

3. Enter your email address and password to log in.

4. You should land on your personal profile and there link is right there.

Mobile Phone/IPad Steps – If You Are Using A Smartphone or A Tablet

Even if you set up your Zoom account on your computer, you should still download Zoom’s free app for your smartphone or tablet so you can meet on those devices if you wish. And even if you don’t plan to set up a Zoom account of your own, having the app installed will help you quickly join in the fun of someone else’s meeting when the opportunity presents itself.

First, find the app in the App Store. For iPhone, it looks like this:

Once you have installed the app, log in (if you already have an account) or click to set up a free account. Both options are on this next screen (“Sign Up” or “Sign In”):

If you are signing up, the next screen will look like this:

Once you enter the info, “Sign Up” in the tip right corner of the screen will become clickable. Once you click, a message will come up on the screen that you need to check your inbox for an email verifying your email address. There is a link in that email to Activate Your Account.

A few more things to note:

The free account is adequate for unlimited meetings of 2 log ins. So if you log in and your colleague logs in, you can meet for an unlimited amount of time. If there are 3 or more log ins to the meeting (at the same time), a free meeting is limited to 40 minutes.

Zoom was built for online business meetings but there is no reason it can’t be used for all gatherings, so be sure to share this information with anyone who can benefit from an online connection tool at this time.

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3.13.2020

MEET THE TEAM: Kevin Maes, VP of Engineering

In our MEET THE TEAM series, we interview members of our team to help you get to know them personally and professionally. We begin the series with the company’s leader – Kevin Maes.

  • VP of Engineering
  • Also handles Business Development and Client Relations
  • Based in the main office in Madison, WI
  • Travels frequently to trade shows and speaking and training events across the US and Canada
  • Connect with Kevin on LinkedIn

Education: BS in Geography from the University of Minnesota

Experience: After serving 3 years in the US Army and obtaining his degree, Kevin has spent 25 years in the telecom industry in the areas of Project, Field, Management and Leadership roles.

Favorite Thing(s) To Do Professionally: Building the team and solving for the challenges that present themselves when building Fiber To The Home (FTTH) in Rural America.

Favorite Thing To Do Personally: Fly fishing! While Alaska has been the best fly fishing he’s experienced so far, upstate New York, Maine and the UK have also been incredible experiences.

Little Known Fact: Kevin was a fishing guide for one summer in Alaska – a very rugged and life-changing experience – ask him about it sometime!

Currently Working On: Kevin is creating a Fly Fishing Class and Event in collaboration with a few organizations that serve and suppport Veterans. He’s looking forward to rolling out this program later this year.

Advice to someone entering this industry: There is a ton of opportunity in this field. There always has been, but now more than ever.

Technology has been the game changer because the traditional roles are still needed but there are now new ways of looking at data and that can be combined with traditional practices.

This industry is never boring and it’s constantly changing. It’s a noble profession – tangible, you can see the impact you are having on communities in Rural America every day.

If you enjoyed this blog post, click here to sign up to receive an email whenever a new post is published. This way you will never miss any information!

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3.11.2020

CASE STUDY: How Wave Direct Is Expanding Fiber Service Availability In Rural Canada

This is an excerpt from our case study titled: WAVEDIRECT CASE STUDY: Expanding Fiber Service Availability To Rural Areas Across Essex County Using Geospatial Technology and Analytics to Optimize Efficiency. You can access the complete report by clicking here.

The County of Essex in Ontario, Canada may not be the most familiar spot on the map, but it certainly “wins a lot of hearts and minds” and is one of Canada’s best kept secrets.

The area has a desirable climate, with enjoyable, long summers and mild winters. Being surrounded by three water features- Lake Erie, Detroit River, Lake St. Clair – there are plenty of activities including boating, kayaking, fishing and paddle boarding.

Throughout the county, there is a perfect balance of urban and rural settings with both affordable and attractive housing. Many wineries and Bed & Breakfasts sprinkle the area, making it a lovely spot for tourists. There are also plentiful jobs with thriving manufacturing and agricultural sectors, and a short commute to Detroit for further work opportunities. As many residents declare, Essex is “a great place to live, work and play”.

Founded in 2003, WaveDirect is a telecommunications company located in Leamington, Ontario that specializes in providing high-speed internet to rural areas that lack these services. The internet coverage of WaveDirect continues to grow and currently reaches across Essex County.

THE CHALLENGE

For years, there has been an apparent digital divide between urban and rural areas. In many urban areas, high-speed internet has become more and more accessible, with speeds continuing to increase. However, the opposite is true for residents within rural areas. The Canadian Government recognizes the importance of quality internet for a community to thrive, especially within the digital economy. Though while 96% Canadian residents have access to proper broadband internet, only 39% of rural residents have access to these basic standards.

Click here to download the complete case study and discover the approach WaveDirect took to overcome the challenge and also the results that have come from this important project.

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3.9.2020

Telecommunication Industry Perspective: An Interview With Eric Marinakis

Our team has over 50 years of institutional knowledge. You can only rack up that kind of experience by grinding it out in the industry, learning as much as possible. While the x’s and o’s of our business are incredibly important, we place an equal amount of importance on what we can learn from those we know in the telecommunications industry.

We recently had the good fortune of interviewing Eric Marinakis, VP of Sales at Corning Optical Communications. Eric has been in the industry for over 30 years so he’s seen a lot and he knows a lot more. This interview originally appeard in our quarterly newsletter.

Kevin Maes, Millennium Geospatial: Based on your 30+ years in the industry, what do you see that is different today about the industry than, say, 10 years ago?

Eric Marinakis, Corning Optical Communications: The pace of installations, the lower cost of bringing fiber deeper and the morphing of product sets to be smaller, denser and more flexible.

KM: What do you think is the biggest challenge/obstacle to getting more fiber deeper into Rural America?

EM: More qualified fiber installers, tighter training and practices, enhanced glass for more flexible and smaller cable designs.

KM: Do you think 5G will have an impact on the company’s decision-making around getting Fiber deeper into their networks?

EM: The 5G use case, as laid out by a highly regarded, top executive to our team, is fascinating and compelling. Network security is top of news and we cannot continue to grow and live the way we currently are without tightening up this area in every way. In other areas, like enhanced factory automation, smart buildings and cities, autonomous vehicles and robotic surgery, 5G leads us forward.

KM: What’s been the biggest surprise to you related to the industry?

EM: Continued growth. I started in the 80’s and what a ride it has been. Fiber to the desk, home and business was once a nice thought that was just too costly. Then again, we carried a bag phone back then too…

KM: What do you think the industry will look like in 5 years?

EM: The next 5 years will be another major leap ahead as fiber circles our cities, enables our wireless life and continues to change how we work, play and live.

Eric is the Vice President of Sales at Corning Optical Communications and has been a Senior Sales Executive in the Global Telecommunications Industry for over three decades.

If you enjoyed this blog post, click here to sign up to receive an email whenever a new post is published. This way you will never miss any information!

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3.3.2020

Millennium Introduces Engineering Arm To Their Material Distribution And Rental/Leasing Portfolio

DELAVAN, WI: Millennium, a nationwide distributor of fiber optic network materials has announced the addition of Millennium Geospatial, an engineering & design company to their portfolio.

Millennium Geospatial will be focused on helping Rural Utility Co-operatives, Wisps, and Independent Network providers with their Engineering & Design needs.

In a statement, James Kyle, Founder and CEO of Millennium stated: “Our clients turn to Millennium for help in updating their existing networks and building new broadband networks. Millennium has always offered a host of solutions to help providers from introducing new technologies that will make their networks more reliable, managing their project and material needs, to the rental and leasing of capital equipment. It made sense to introduce an Engineering arm to our portfolio of products and services so that our clients can continue to rely on Millennium to bring the best possible solutions and services to help their business grow. Millennium can now provide an end-to-end solution in development to deployment of broadband networks. Our engineering solutions are built on scalable solutions and ready for the next generation of technology.”

Millennium Geospatial is headquartered in Madison, WI where they will offer a host of products and services to support the needs of network providers from beginning to end. They plan to offer the following:

  • Feasibility Studies: Providing all the pieces of a FTTH network that allows you to make an informed
    decision. Our consultative approach outlines a step-by-step implementation plan that will examine
    various cost factors, options and timelines while examining financing needs based on the design.
  • Geospatial Engineering: Engineered Designs gauged towards data analytics that will drive more
    reliable and cost effective network solutions. Our engineering services will use data to create the most
    technologically advanced networks that will ultimately save network owners time, money, and
    headaches by providing a platform to view geographic & spatial intelligence into the planning and
    design of a network. Identifying and leveraging this data into our designs allows our clients to be more
    profitable faster. We’ll provide an engineering package with the specification drawings needed to
    build your broadband network while detailing materials and proper permitting needs.
  • Construction Supervision: Managing and supervising your network build. We’ll manage the details
    from permitting, project management of materials, timelines and costs on behalf of the client so that
    specifications are adhered to from the engineered design.
  • Records Conversion: Updating and Converting existing records and integrate them into a single
    platform using Geospatial Data. Dissecting the data to identify areas in need of maintenance &
    redesign, track existing and potential outages, and identify trends using the data to plan for future
    needs.

For further information regarding Millennium or Millennium Geospatial, contact marketing@mymillennium.us or info@millenniumgeospatial.com.

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