Posted by: Ann Treacy | January 19, 2013

North Dakota is Better with Broadband

Thanks to Jennifer Bevis at Blandin Foundation for the heads up on the recent article on broadband in North Dakota. As she said to me – it’s not Minnesota, but it sure could be.

The story starts 10 years ago in rural North Dakota. Residents are saddened to realize that unless something changes, their children will probably not be able to stay in the area due to lack of opportunities. Well a couple of things changed. They got broadband…

Dakota Central has installed fiber-optic lines to the homes and businesses it serves, replacing copper lines, to enable data and television services for customers.

That was part of a 10-year, $90 million initiative in partnership with neighboring Dickey Rural Networks that together established a fiber broadband network covering 10,000 square miles, billed as the largest in the nation when its completion was announced in April.

The project, which had support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s rural development agency, was called a “game changer” for rural communities, with technology to help create jobs and open new markets.

Also the article recognizes, they got oil…

How much of North Dakota’s prosperity is simply the oil and gas boom enabled by technology, coupled with high farm commodity prices — and how much is attributable to state policies, workforce and other homegrown factors?

“I think we definitely have lucked out, but at the same time, North Dakotans in general are conservative,” Anderson said. “We’re not going to take a one-time windfall and not use it.”

It’s an example of broadband technology as an investment. The broadband coupled with oil and gas have created more opportunities related to the oil and gas and the further investment will create opportunities that aren’t related to oil and gas. The technology allows for clean diversification.

It reminded me of a story closer to home. Last week, I was able to attend the annual State of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe meeting with Bill Coleman. I was so impressed on many levels – especially on the focus on the future. This was the meeting where they announced plans to buy two hotels in St Paul. So smart to invest in diverse markets! The Mille Lacs community is one of the new Blandin Broadband Communities (BBC) so Bill is working with them on plans for increasing local use of broadband. I suspect that as in North Dakota, we’ll find that the investment in technology improves initial investment and reaps enough to further diversify investments and improve quality of life!


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