Rural broadband expands in South Dakota, Alaska

Rural broadband networks are moving forward in South Dakota and Alaska. Last week, South Dakota asked rural residents to complete usage surveys about how they use the internet and what services they would like to see. General Communications Inc. just finished an expansion in Southwest Alaska that would bring internet access to the region for the first time.

South Dakota’s Broadband Initiative, led by the Bureau of Information and Telecommunications (BIT), recently partnered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) mailed out 6,500 surveys to agricultural producers throughout the state to ask them when and how they use the internet. Agriculture is a core driver of South Dakota’s economy and many organizations are doing millions of dollars of business over dial-up connections, according to a piece in the Tri-State Neighbor.

South Dakota officials hope to provide broadband access points throughout the state in an affordable way for subscribers.

In Alaska, General Communications Inc. is migrating anchor institutions to one of the area’s first terrestrial broadband networks. Previously, access was largely provided through satellites. However, last October the state undertook a massive broadband expansion that laid fiber throughout Alaska’s daunting geographic landscape providing citizens with the first reliable, affordable internet access they’ve had.

By the end of 2012 some 9,000 households in 65 communities will be online throughout Southwest Alaska. More immediately hospitals will reap significant cost savings benefits by being able to send and receive health data online rather than through regular mail.