An aggressive, multi-year plan to bring high-speed internet to every home in South Dakota will soon be a reality in Lake County by this time next year. The rest of South Dakota won’t be far behind.
In Gov. Kristi Noem’s first State of the State address in 2019, she stated that high-speed internet statewide would be a priority in South Dakota, which could help boost the state in education, business and telemedicine. That is an aggressive goal, and one that would take a lot of money.
And reaching the goal is complicated. Internet service is available to different parts of the state through providers like private companies, municipal systems and rural telecommunications companies, and consists of a mix of technologies, including telephone lines, coaxial cable and fiber optic cable. Madison has had service in the city by Midco, Bluepeak and CenturyLink for a for a number of years, but it’s not all highspeed. Rural and lake connections have been provided by rural telecoms and wireless services like Interlakes Wireless, but are not all highspeed. Some of the most rural parts of the state don’t have highspeed access, either, but it isn’t simply a rural vs. urban issue.
The statewide initiative, called ConnectSD Broadband, has been led by Mike Waldner of Madison, who explained some of these complexities recently to the Daily Leader. “We want to make sure all South Dakotans, including those in our tribal areas, are equipped with future-proof high-speed internet that can expand and serve the technology needs for generations to come,” said Waldner.
The main components of the initiative include getting the physical connection everywhere (primarily through fiber optic wires), internet service (provided by the local companies and cooperatives) and training how to access the internet. Funding from both the state and federal governments provide grants to providers. To finish off Lake County, grants were made to Midco, TrioTel of Salem (providing service from the southwest part of Lake County toward Madison) and ITC of Clear Lake (providing service from the northeast). By the end of 2024, every home in the county should be hooked up. The cost of monthly service is the responsibility of the user.
We thought the original goal of high-speed access to every home in South Dakota was an aggressive, maybe impossible goal in 2019. But it looks like it will be fulfilled, and we applaud those who made it happen.