As a nearly lifelong Interstate Telecommunications Cooperative (ITC) customer, Tracy Bandemer appreciated when internet services from her rural Toronto home went from dial-up to fiber.
As the new General Manager and CEO of the telecommunications company, she wants to ensure customers across the region continue to experience the most reliable and best possible speeds for services at home, work and school.
“Providing exceptional services to our members has always been a priority. Even though some had to wait over time for this to be achieved, we can now celebrate this together,” Bandemer said.
Bandemer grew up in rural Toronto. She earned her first degree from Northern State University and wanted to return to her hometown. She knew people who worked at ITC and applied to join them when an opportunity came along. While at ITC, she continued her education, earned her CPA license and master’s in business administration.
“Part of obtaining those credentials was to advance my career — and here we are,” she said. “I am humbled and honored by the trust the board has placed in me and look forward to continuing that through challenges and opportunities.”
ITC is a voice, broadband and video service provider, serving about 14,000 customers in parts of northeastern South Dakota and western Minnesota. It is headquartered in Clear Lake with offices in Webster, Brookings and Milbank.
Bandemer has been part of the ITC family for more than 25 years, most recently serving as the Chief Financial Officer. In November 2020 she became interim general manager when ITC opted to adjust its management agreement with telecom provider TrioTel based out of Salem and return to a full-time manager position.
After officially taking over the GM role in February, she filled her former role – an accounting supervisor is currently in training – and tackled some new projects.
One of those includes improving services to rural Grant County. Thanks to a $1.3 million CARES Act grant, ITC is expanding its service area to deliver cutting-edge technology to those in underserved rural areas. Construction is underway and customers can sign up for fiber now.
The Grant County project is similar to others ITC has done, most recently in rural Lincoln County, Minnesota.
“They were definitely underserved and a lot of their kids couldn’t even do their homework,” Bandemer said. “They were elated when the project was completed and it’s always nice to see people happy.”
The company also received $5.4 million from the 2021 South Dakota Connect Grants announced in June to expand broadband service to people in the Lake Poinsett and Lake Albert areas as well as Rural Codington County.
As of 2020, ITC’s ILEC (incumbent local exchange carrier) area was 100% fiber. The provider is celebrating the accomplishment with “Fiber Fest – It’s a Gig Deal!” but Bandemer says there are still potential areas to serve.
“Now that we’ve reached our 100% fiber goal, we will continue to strategize for the next best thing,” she said.
Living the past year during a pandemic has proven the importance of reliable broadband services for people to be able to work and learn from home. And as one of SDN Communications’ member companies, Bandemer values the partnership that has allowed ITC to provide that state-of-the-art services to its customers.
“We’re all invested in SDN and it’s a good relationship back and forth. It’s vital to South Dakota. We can do so much more with each other — the more we can work together the better outcome we’ll have.”