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Letter: Hindering Billings County fiber-optic project hurts neighbors, residents

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In an age when old technology is a disadvantage, it is hard to believe that rural landowners would deny access to a local telephone cooperative for fiber optic installation.

To those who are hindering access for Consolidated to move forward with their fiber-optic project north and south of Belfield (rural Billings and Stark counties), I ask you this: Did you know your decision has had frustrating effects on the rural school in Fairfield?

Have you thought about rural residents and businesses being able to utilize the Internet and phone lines to conduct business? Have you given thought to those connecting with friends and loved ones? Our world has become smaller because of today’s technology.

Finally, have you given thought to what happens when residents in this area dial 911? Emergency services are affected by what type of telecommunication service is available. When 911 is dialed, the call is routed through State Radio in Bismarck, who then pages the appropriate emergency services for Billings County. (FYI, Billings County does serve portions of rural Stark County.) These paging systems run off repeater towers, which operate on phone lines. When the phone lines are “down,” the towers are unable to be paged. In other words, communications with State Radio does not function. The phone lines servicing two repeater towers in Billings County operate on service by Century Link. Troubleshooting with these phone lines has been a chronic issue. Billings County also utilizes a dispatch system requiring high-speed Internet access and locations to place this equipment are limited.

Telecommunications service here is limited to one company that has not taken the initiative to improve their equipment and technology. There are few (if any) reliable and inexpensive choices for Internet.

Rural water was brought here benefitting landowners and increasing property values. Access to fiber-optic technology can only do the same.

Your decision to hinder progress has its effects. Your decision is affecting your neighbors and fellow county residents —who are your fellow taxpayers. Your decision is affecting the growth and adaptability of a county living in the middle of the oil boom. Please realize that your decision solely made by looking at the short term will greatly affect life for people in our rural communities in the long term. Failure to update telecommunications technology now only puts us — and generations to come — farther behind.

Julie Reis,

Fairfield

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