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It's a gusher: a North Dakota fiber abundance shows how telcos are ready go handle a statewide economic boom.

"North Dakota telcos are in the midst of building fiber out to the home right now. Dickey Rural and Dakota Central were the first to achieve this."

David Crothers, executive vice president of the North Dakota Association of Telecommunications Cooperatives

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While North Dakota as a whole is experiencing economic growth at incredible rates due to the oil boom, rural North Dakota is experiencing a similar boom in fiber. North Dakota is now home to the nation's largest regional fiber-to-the-home network, along with a low unemployment rate. Dickey Rural Telephone Cooperative (Ellendale) and Dakota Central Telecommunications (Carrington) have co-launched the network, covering 10,000 square miles of south central North Dakota. The fiber boom, however, is being felt by telcos across the state. As the economy steadily grows, so does the need for a reliable fiber network.

The changing economy in North Dakota is increasing the demand on telcos in the state, as companies grow and adjust to keep up with the bubbling economy around them.

"Telcos in North Dakota recognize that the best technology to serve the future needs in the immense amount of capacity and speed that our customers will need is fiber," stated David Crothers, executive vice president of the North Dakota Association of Telecommunications Cooperatives (Mandan). He explained that while Dakota Central and Dickey Rural have been in the spotlight with their launch, other telcos in the state are well underway with their own fiber buildouts.

Public Eye

The joint marketing strategy that Dakota Central and Dickey Rural used to promote the new fiber ring allowed them to increase the visibility for their network, as did the attention of North Dakota (o Jack Dalrymple, who was there at the network completion announcement.

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"North Dakota telcos are in the midst of building fiber out to the home right now," Crothers said. "Dickey Rural and Dakota Central were the first to achieve this. I think we will see a number of them [state telcos] complete 100% buildouts in the next year. Dickey Rural and Dakota Central have led the way; but the other North Dakota companies are not far behind. Unquestionably, it'll benefit the economy."

With their launch of the regional fiber ring, Dickey Rural and Dakota Central are able to accommodate demand for not just the present economic boom, but for years to come. "We realized the benefits that it brought our members. There are a lot of advanced services that could be delivered over the fiber, and the cost to operate was substantially less. We call it 'future proofing' our network," stated Dickey Rural General Manager Jeff Wilson.

"Our board is so extremely proud of what we've been able to do for our members and the community. And our employees are very proud of it," Wilson continued.

People aren't just flowing into North Dakota because of the economic boom but also for the way of life North Dakota can supply.

"The quality of life in North Dakota is affordable, clean and safe. We have good education, good health care, low taxes, affordable housing and no traffic," said Robin Anderson, marketing manager at Dakota Central. "Businesses are always impressed with the technology available in such a remote area."

Dickey Rural and Dakota Central colaunched this fiber network back in April of this year with a joint marketing effort.

Keith Larson, general manager at Dakota Central, said, "When we started this project in 2003, there were 78,000 homes connected to fiber in the nation. Today, there are over 8 million homes. It was a huge undertaking for a company of our size, and we were truly on the cutting edge of technology Because [Dickey Rural] practically mirrors our company and their service area runs up against ours, it made sense that we co-announce our completion and promote the region as 100% [fiber to the home]. While we operate as individual companies, our employees have always had an open line of communication and have been a good resource for each other when troubleshooting or researching products and services. Over the years, we have maintained a close working relationship, and we are grateful for that."

A Model Project

Though they each run their own networks, both companies hope they have provided a model for other telcos by showing the valuable effects that working together can have on companies.

Jana Hauck, marketing manager of Dickey Rural, stated, "There is just so much more that is available now because of the fiber ring." She explained that the telcos is trying to show its customers how much can be accessed at their fingertips with a broadband connection. North Dakota is seeing an economic boom that needs the benefits fiber brings to keep up with the growing demand, and telcos across the state are following Dickey Rural and Dakota Central in providing the supply for an economy that's poised for growth.

North Dakota customers are requesting more as technology advances. "They are requesting new applications. Along with us educating them, we provide promotions to advance their businesses or just their private life," Hauck stated. She explained that her company wanted faster speeds and more options, and the fiber enables that. Between merely sending large documents or surveillance for their buildings, the fiber network can now give customers what they need to continue to have a thriving business.

Anderson added, "It really allows businesses to use the technology and expand their business however they would like."

Larson noted the ease in service upgrades now that the telco has fiber installed. "As new services become available, we only need to upgrade the electronics at the house versus upgrading the entire network as is the case with copper today."

Along with other telcos in North Dakota, Dickey Rural and Dakota Central allow their customers to experience the benefits that fiber can bring to their businesses and private lives. The move to fiber by the North Dakota telco industry shows how it is ready to handle a statewide economic boom, and handle it reliably

PHOTO COURTESY OF DAKOTA CENTRAL TELECOMMUNICATIONS

Lindsay Emow is NTCA's communications intern. Contact her at comumnications@ntca.org.
COPYRIGHT 2012 National Telephone Cooperative Association
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Author:Emow, Lindsay
Publication:Rural Telecommunications
Geographic Code:1U4ND
Date:Nov 1, 2012
Words:1018
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