PIERRE, S.D. — Gov. Kristi Noem has proposed $5 million in state funds to go toward her broadband expansion initiative, Connect South Dakota, a continued effort that has already connected many rural residents to faster Internet.
Noem explained her efforts during a press conference Thursday, Feb. 27, in Pierre.
“Having internet access is incredibly important for us throughout the state,” Noem said.
Noem added that because of the $5 million investment last year, the funds qualified the state to receive additional federal funding for a total of $25 million in rural broadband investments within South Dakota.
“I put another $5 million into my budget, and I want to continue to see the success in South Dakota go far into the future,” Noem said. According to the governor's office, some 88,000 South Dakotans don't have easy access to high-speed internet.
Mona Thompson, general manager of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Telephone Authority, spoke to last year’s success and the need to connect more to broadband internet in her region.
“Without the S.D. Connect broadband grant, we would not have been able to deploy fiber into the community of Timber Lake,” Thompson said of the $474,500 grant.
Before the faster internet connection, Timber Lake students would need to start downloading educational videos at 5 a.m. and return home to a video that still needed more time to download.
Thompson estimated that to connect 250 more locations in the Timber Lake area to broadband Internet would take $6 million and 300 miles of fiber.
“Our board is currently evaluating that and we will be looking for funding opportunities,” Thompson said.