Governor’s Column: Expanding Broadband



Governor’s Column: Expanding Broadband





I’ve heard it said that 65 percent of children in elementary school today will work in jobs that don’t yet exist. These jobs of the future – the jobs our children will depend on to support families of their own – will almost certainly require access to technology, particularly the internet. We must make those investments now. Raising the next generation with tools such as broadband is our responsibility. 

 

South Dakota’s lack of broadband is a big problem to tackle. Half our counties have rural areas where one in four people don’t have adequate internet access. Some counties have rural areas where half the residents don’t have reliable access. We must close the broadband gap to ensure South Dakotans have the opportunity to work and hire locally while selling globally.  

 

That’s easier said than done. Fiber optic line can cost $15,000 per mile to lay, and the low number of customers in some rural areas makes it too expensive for companies to justify their investment. 

 

Some have discouraged me from even trying to expand access across the state because it’s too hard and too expensive. But I refuse to quit. Geographic location cannot be an excuse for the government to do nothing when the future vitality of our economy is at stake.  Geographic location no longer has to be a barrier to participating in the global economy. 

 

Earlier this month, I announced my plan to close the broadband gap. Partnering with others, I want to connect as many more South Dakotans as possible to high speed internet over the next four years.  

 

To accomplish this goal, we’ll bring together industry leaders. Our state’s rural telecom companies, in particular, have considerable experience in bringing broadband service to our rural areas. Our state’s other wireline service providers have an important role to play in areas they serve as well, and I look forward to working with them on increasing their level of service. 

 

What’s more, I want to bring in companies with emerging technologies in the fixed wireless arena, such as Microsoft’s Airband initiative, that may offer more cost-efficient ways to provide fast, reliable service to our most difficult to serve locations.  And I see a role for companies ready to invest in new 5G technology, which promises faster, more reliable service over cellular data networks.  

 

Additionally, we’re going to commit state resources to closing the broadband gap. But we can’t, and shouldn’t, exclusively rely on those to get us across the finish line, so we’re developing a series of public-private partnerships to help overcome the challenges of service in rural areas and achieve the ambitious goals we’ve set for South Dakota. 

 

I’m confident we can find a way to bridge our own challenges and secure broadband for South Dakota’s next generation and beyond.

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