Largest Internet service network in North America built in North DakotaJAMESTOWN (AP) — It took about 10 years for two North Dakota telecom cooperatives to plan and build a 10,000-square mile broadband network billed as the largest fiber-optic Internet service in North America.
By: Dave Kolpack , The Dickinson Press
JAMESTOWN (AP) — It took about 10 years for two North Dakota telecom cooperatives to plan and build a 10,000-square mile broadband network billed as the largest fiber-optic Internet service in North America.
It took the manager of a small-town printing company 10 seconds to notice the difference.
“We have some big graphic files and have always been looking for more speed,” said Bruce Ordahl, who oversees 40 employees at Gwinner-based J&M Printing. “We have really saved a lot of time and money with the fiber.”
Officials gathered at Jamestown State College Wednesday to announce the completion of a network that covers an area equal to the size of New Jersey, but with an extremely low population density. There’s an average of only one home per mile of fiber cable in the network that reaches about a seventh of the state.
Dallas Tonsager, undersecretary for the U.S. Agriculture Department’s rural development agency, said Wednesday that the state-of-the-art technology should help create jobs and open new markets. If it can be done in such a rural area, Tonsager said, it can be done anywhere.
“It’s a great role model for the rest of the country,” he said. “We’re going to use it as an example, over and over again.”
Access to the Internet was previously available in the network area, but not at the speeds the fiber will provide. Ordahl said it would take about five minutes to download a typical file when his company was using a DSL connection. That same file now takes about 10 seconds, he said.
“It makes a huge difference,” Ordahl said.
The project cost more than $90 million and was a joint effort by Carrington-based Dakota Central Telecommunications and Ellendale-based Dickey Rural Networks. Each company has about 8,000 customers.
Jasper Schneider, state director for the Agriculture Department’s rural development agency, called the network “the biggest game changer” for rural communities. He said a fiber connection is superior to other technology, including wireless.
“It is the purest, fastest form of Internet connection that you can find,” Schneider said.
About 5 percent of homes nationwide are connected to fiber, while every home and business in the new network is linked directly to fiber.
“You talk about connectivity, we are attached to the entire world here,” Gov. Jack Dalrymple said. “If we had talked that way even 10 years ago in North Dakota, a lot of people would have laughed and said you don’t know what it’s like to be in a rural area.”
The telecom companies said they have conducted hundreds of Internet classes for newcomers. John P. Wheelihan, 94, of Ellendale, a World War II veteran, said he attended a couple of sessions, but has yet to go online.
“I plan on getting on the Internet this summer,” he said. “Might as well. I’m paying for it.”