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Monday, July 5, 2010

Obama Stimulates South Dakota Small Town Broadband

We're not following Finland in declaring broadband a fundamental human right, but we're working on making universal access to the information superhighway a practical reality. On Friday, the Obama Administration announced an additional $800 million in stimulus dollars to boost 66 broadband projects nationwide.

Two South Dakota outfits get a piece of this broadband stimulus pie:
  1. Triotel Communications of Salem gets $12.3 million to lay fiber-optic cable (that's the fast stuff) to homes in Canova, Alexandria, Emery, Farmer, Salem, and Spencer. Triotel says the project may benefit over 4000 people, just about 1000 businesses, and 100 community institutions. Interestingly, Triotel's homepage features a banner link calling on us to oppose the FCC's National Broadband Plan... apparently based on the plan's setting rural braodband standards 25 times slower than national standards.
  2. Highmore-based Venture Communications gets $5.2 million (to be supplemented with $1.7M in private capital) to run fiber to homes and businesses in Cresbard, Faulkton, and Orient. Over 2000 people and dozens of businesses and institutions stand to get faster Internet.
Among neighboring states, Iowa is living highest off the broadband stimulus hog, winning $69.8 million for six broadband projects. On an entirely unrelated note, these stimulus grants are administered in part by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, headed by Secretary and former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack.

But South Dakota's $17.5 million is no sneezable sum. Iowa and Montana were our only neighbors to get more of this broadband stimulus, and most of Montana's money is $15.5 million dedicated to building a fiber network everywhere on the Crow Reservation.

Of course, we all know that South Dakota's reliance on federal money is bad, bad, bad. When will Kristi Noem go to Salem and Highmore and tell them to send this Executive Branch pork back to Washington? Hmmm... maybe she can get some support for that argument from Wisconsin Democrat and chair of House Appropriations David Obey, who wants to cut $602 million from the total $7.2 billion of stimulus dollars targeted at broadband to offset war costs.

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