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Heather Kranz leads TrioTel’s 100% fiber network into the future

Heather Kranz headshot

As a staff member at TrioTel Communications, Heather Kranz saw major transformations over the past 21 years, from digital television options to fiber internet.

“I remember when we brought digital TV to town and to rural members and what an exciting opportunity it was when the only thing they had was dish or satellite or antenna,” Kranz said. “I look how far it’s come since then — it’s incredible how much it’s changed.”

The challenges of adapting to ongoing change are what keep Kranz engaged in the industry, especially in her new role as CEO/General Manager of TrioTel Communications, Inc.

Kranz was officially named CEO in March 2022, but she’s been filling the role on an interim basis since 2021 when her predecessor, Bryan Roth, stepped back from his role. Roth officially retired in 2022 and retired from the SDN Board of Managers in May. In addition to TrioTel, Roth managed Interstate Telecommunications Cooperative in Clear Lake to help its fiber advancement. Tracy Bandemer was named ITC’s new CEO in 2021.

Brian Roth

The telecommunications industry appealed to Kranz as a career path, as did TrioTel’s location just west of Sioux Falls. TrioTel is the evolution of the McCook Cooperative Telephone Company, which started in 1951. Beginning in 1993 the Hanson County Telephone Company was added, followed by McCook Telecom and TriCounty Telcom, Inc. In 2010, all the companies merged and renamed the co-op TrioTel.

Kranz is a Spencer native and graduate of McCook Central High School. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Dakota State University. She and her husband own the Salem Lumber Company, and the couple knew they wanted to return to the Salem area post-college.

Kranz started her career in Mitchell with the Martin Group, an engineering company that works with independent telecommunications companies in building infrastructure. She went on to join TrioTel in 2001.

“Getting into the telecom industry is hard initially — there’s so much to learn,” she said.

Roth initially hired Kranz for a position in customer service. She later moved to billing and then Director of Internal Operation before stepping in as interim CEO. She credits her time at the Martin Group for giving her an introduction to the industry. One of her initial projects after joining TrioTel was completing a billing conversion — something she’d done at Martin Group.

She also credits the culture and employees at TrioTel for solidifying her career choice. Many employees have worked for TrioTel for more than 15 years. Together they’ve been a part of upgrading analog cable to digital television to fiber. TrioTel was one of the first SDN member companies to complete 100% fiber service to all of its customers.

Kranz says the consistency of the staff means they really understand the services they deliver, such as phone, internet, TrioVision, and camera monitoring. She credits Roth’s leadership and the foresight of the Board to continue to seek funding options to bring fiber to TrioTel customers. In 2013, 100% of subscribers had fiber, thanks to a federal grant that Kranz called a “game-changer.”

TrioTel received additional funds in 2021 and expanded broadband services to Junius and Fulton. Altogether, there are more than 1,000 miles of fiber serving nearly 2,000 residents in the coverage area.

TrioTel fiber map
TrioTel fiber map

Moving forward, the future is fiber, Kranz said. Maintaining the fiber and funding that maintenance could be challenging, but that’s where Kranz sees the benefits of being part of SDN Communications. Kranz is one of several newly appointed leaders at SDN member companies in recent years.

“Everyone works well together in our state — and I think it’s rare,” Kranz said. “I look at the growth we’ve seen by working together and hope that we can continue to contribute to the quality of life of our service areas and the communities we live in.”

SDN is a leader in providing direct Internet Access, Ethernet Transport Services, Wavelength, and managed services to businesses and organizations in communities such as Sioux Falls, Rapid City, Worthington, and across a 7-state region.