More rural S.D. communities will soon have access to broadband internet

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BROOKINGS COUNTY, S.D. (KELO) – High speed internet is a bit of a rarity in parts of rural South Dakota. But money from the second round of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect Program aims to fix that issue.

Over 1,500 people spanning five counties in South Dakota will soon be connected to broadband internet thanks to an investment of $5.5 million from the United States Department of Agriculture.

“The fact that we are putting these dollars at work to invest in capital to build out into these areas and give you the opportunity to do all the things that everyone else can do back in the cities is really important. This isn’t just something that we’re doing for your sake, for your benefit, this is for the nation’s benefit and this is for the world’s benefit,” Chad Rupe, USDA’s Administrator for Rural Utilities Service, said.

Jeff Symens, the CEO of Valley FiberCom, says the need for broadband internet in rural areas has only increased since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

“It’s amazing how many people are lacking good connections out there. What I hear mostly, as of the last six months to a year, is I’ve got students that need to study from home or learn online,” Symens said.

Valley Telecommunications will use the grant to connect people, businesses, farms and more to high-speed broadband internet in Beadle, Brookings, Kingsbury and Moody Counties.

“The people in these areas that they are going to be serving — these are folks that call me. These are the folks that have talked to me. These are the folks that stop me, wherever they might see me, and say ‘Chris, this is where I live, when can we get broadband?’ Now I got a good answer for them,” Chris Neson, vice chairman of the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, said.

Lincoln and Turner Counties will also be benefiting from the second round of the ReConnect Program. Alliance Communications was granted $1.5 million to connect people, farms and businesses in those two counties.

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