South Dakota can lead again with emerging communication technologies.

By Pat Powers
South Dakota War College

I was reading with interest an opinion piece in the Argus Leader from representatives of DSU about South Dakota becoming a leader in 5G technology.

Their thesis is that South Dakota needs to be on the cusp of emerging technologies, and made the point that “Working with the federal government and private industry, however, S.D. can jump to the front of the pack – turning the apparent disadvantages of its small cities and rural expanses into the advantages that the new technology needs to overcome the barriers that slow its arrival.”

On Monday last week, if you recall, a roundtable discussion took place with Senator John Thune, PUC Commissioner Kristi Fiegen, prominent telecommunication leaders, and government officials towards those very goals. The discussion, hosted by Connect Americans Now (CAN), centered on eliminating the rural broadband gap and the new technology that has been developed to help accomplish this goal.

It is clear from the discussion that took place that broadband connectivity is no longer a simple luxury but a vital necessity for businesses, healthcare, and agriculture.  If we want to encourage growth, especially in underserved rural areas which are most at risk for simple attrition reducing the size of those communities, we need to help people in those communities with the simple to do business if we want them to live there.

It’s hard to facilitate growth in a community if they don’t have the ability to sell their wares in a global economy. That’s a basic fact.

As we found many years back now, as when Governor Janklow decided that South Dakota needed to wire our state schools and libraries for electronic communications; with its vast landscape and a large portion of the population in rural areas, South Dakota has another chance to be a leading pioneer – this time in advancing broadband with new, cutting-edge technology.

CAN is a new group striving to bring broadband access to the 23.4 million rural Americans who lack connectivity, Spokesperson John Conradi stated that Microsoft has proposed a three-pronged approach to bridge the divide.

“By using the already developed TV white spaces, LTE coverage, and satellite coverage, we can unleash tremendous potential for the lives and livelihoods of 23.4 million rural Americans who lack a broadband connection,” said Conradi. “But, it is going to take more than private-sector investment to make this goal a reality. Specifically, it will be important for the FCC to ensure that three channels below 700 MHz are available for wireless use on an unlicensed basis in every market in the country, with additional TV white spaces available in smaller markets and rural areas.”

“What is going to drive the future of the economy in this country is broadband,” said Sen. Thune.

Using what we have in resources and technology to turn disadvantages into advantages and showing people how to lead.  That’s about as South Dakotan as it comes.

To find out more information on Connect Americans Now’s efforts to eliminate the digital divide, visit their website at:

For more information on Sen. Thune’s stance on bringing broadband to rural South Dakota, visit his website at:

Read the full op-ed in the South Dakota War College here.

Join our fight to bring broadband to all rural Americans. Tell Washington to take action to bridge the digital divide now!