Project complete: Fiber-optic project doneThe largest geographic area in North America served by fiber optic cables directly to the home includes places like Cayuga, Monango, Woodworth and Wimbledon. The combined efforts of Dickey Rural Networks and Dakota Central Telecommunications have brought fiber-optic broadband services to about 16,000 businesses and homes in south central North Dakota.
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
The largest geographic area in North America served by fiber optic cables directly to the home includes places like Cayuga, Monango, Woodworth and Wimbledon. The combined efforts of Dickey Rural Networks and Dakota Central Telecommunications have brought fiber-optic broadband services to about 16,000 businesses and homes in south central North Dakota.
The two cooperatives celebrated the completion of the project during an event Wednesday in the lobby of the Reiland Fine Arts Center on the campus of Jamestown College. The combined projects totaled about $90 million and included funding from USDA Rural Development and loans from other sources. The Rural Development funds included additional money from the federal stimulus package.
“This is the purest, fastest form of the Internet,” said Jasper Schneider, USDA Rural Development state director. “This is geographically the largest fiber-to-the-home network on the continent.”
The combined service area is about 10,000 square miles or roughly the size of New Jersey. Planning started in 2002 with actual construction beginning in 2004. The last sections of cable were installed in the fall of 2011.
Schneider characterized high-speed Internet as the “biggest game-changer for rural communities.”
Other officials also praised the project.
“What you’ve done with these two cooperatives is set the standard for the entire United States,” said Dallas Tonsager, USDA Rural Development undersecretary. “This area serves as a great role model for the rest of the country.”
Also attending the ceremony were Gov. Jack Dalrymple, Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D., and representatives from Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D.
Fiber optic cables use light to transmit data rather than the electrical charges used on a copper cable. This allows faster transmissions with more data carried on each cable. It is anticipated to remain the highest capacity and quality cable for data transmission for years into the future. The fiber optic cable is used to transmit computer data, telephone communications and television signals, according to Janell Hauck, marketing manager for Dickey Rural Networks.
“There will be more and more services over the bandwidth,” she said. “But this is a future-proof network. We may have to change some electronics in the house but we won’t have to go back into the ground (to change the cables).”
Customers of the two companies have found many ways to use the broadband capacity.
“I can now work from my in-home office,” said Gary Hoffman of Ashley, director of the North Dakota Dairy Coalition. “If it weren’t for the capacity of the Internet I would have to travel to the coalition headquarters in Mandan.”
Other uses are more farm-oriented.
Josh Peldo, technician for Dickey Rural Network, said some farmers have added streaming web video to livestock barns located from home. During calving season they can check cattle in the middle of the night without leaving home.
The projects weren’t without challenges.
“The main problem we faced was how to pay off the debt of the project,” said Craig Headland, member of the board of directors for Dakota Central Telecommunications for more than 20 years. “But we looked for the most cost-effective way to provide broadband to our customers. Every other option we looked at had problems.”
Connie Ova, CEO of the Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp., sees the fiber optic system as a tool for community development.
“For any company looking to locate here, it is one of the first things they ask about,” she said.
Robin Anderson, marketing manager for Dakota Central Telecommunications, said people are finding ways to use the capacity.
“We are seeing differences in the community,” she said. “It is allowing people to telecommute, it is allowing people to do more.”
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at knor email@example.com