Connecting South Dakota
We have it pretty good in South Dakota. From beautifully laid and intricate landscapes, to revitalized hometown main streets and top-ranked higher education, there is so much that makes South Dakota special. But as the saying goes, “there is so much more.”
I’ve heard it said that 65 percent of children in elementary school today will work in jobs that don’t even exist yet. These jobs will undoubtedly require access to technology, particularly the internet. But today, widespread broadband access in South Dakota isn’t as widespread as we may think. In fact, about 88,000 South Dakotans lack high-speed internet access. These people cannot launch an online business or take advanced classes that require extensive uploading or downloading. Producers in these areas may not be able to use cutting-edge technology that requires online components.
As businesspeople, a gap in broadband internet is a failure to remain competitive. A failure to remain competitive threatens a cut in profit. A cut in profit may force a business to close. And when a business closes, jobs, sales tax income, school enrollment, and community reinvestment suffers, too. The internet - or lack thereof - connects us to more than just what we see on the screen. It connects us to our neighbors locally and our business potential globally.
I tasked the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) with spearheading this broadband challenge. I’m grateful for the partnership of the Legislature as we approved $5 million in grant money to launch our broadband development program, Connect South Dakota. And I’m proud of the private-public partnerships that were forged throughout this process. The eight projects awarded grant money will be incredibly influential in bringing internet access to underserved parts of South Dakota.
Like Ross Petrick, Alliance Communications General Manager said: “Many students in this area [northeast Minnehaha and southeastern Moody counties] struggle to complete homework at home due to the broadband gap, and one large dairy operation is struggling with no broadband capability. A fiber-optic broadband infrastructure will help farming and dairy operations run more efficiently and provide new educational opportunities and telecommuting employment options.”
Collectively, these eight projects will connect about 4,800 unserved and underserved households and more than 100 South Dakota businesses by the end of 2019, and they’re optimistic about the results they will produce.
“With higher speeds and more broadband capacity, the residents of Kranzburg and rural Codington County will no longer have to make do with sub-standard service,” said Scott Bostrom, General Manager of RC Technologies. Mona Thompson, General Manager of Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Telephone Authority said that “bringing fast, reliable, high-capacity broadband service to Timber Lake will greatly enhance all aspects of community life.”
This is only the beginning of our work to bring high-speed internet access to as many South Dakotas as possible. We can’t connect everyone overnight, but I’m committed to doing everything I can to connect South Dakota to a better, brighter tomorrow. We owe it to our future: our children, the next generation.