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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, Oct. 23, 2008
CONTACT:  Leah Mohr, Communications Manager, South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, (605) 773-3201

New sites enhance South Dakota's wireless network

PIERRE, S.D. – The number of sites and technologies within South Dakota's wireless telecommunications network expanded in 2008, according to the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission. So far this year more than 35 new sites have gone online and upgrades have been made to numerous sites to enable access to wireless broadband.

Alltel Wireless activated new sites near Fort Thompson, Spearfish, Pierre, Draper, Angostura Reservoir, Herreid, Lower Brule, Mount Coolidge in Custer State Park, Caputa, Castle Rock, Kadoka, Hot Springs, Fort Pierre (two sites), Sturgis, Keystone, Snake Creek Recreation Area, Sioux Falls, Wessington Springs, Beresford, Florence, Dell Rapids, Henry, Harrisburg, Alexandria, Chester, Bath and Wall Lake. Additionally, Alltel launched wireless broadband services with Evolution Data Optimized technology (EVDO) at nearly three dozen existing sites. EVDO upgrades occurred at sites near Pierre, Sioux Falls, Rapid City, Aberdeen, Brookings, Huron, Mitchell, Yankton, Watertown, Buffalo, Lemmon, Gettysburg, Mobridge, Onida, Edgemont, Mud Butte, Herreid, Angostura Reservoir, Dakota Dunes, Akaska, Selby, Bowdle, Eureka, Ipswich, Roscoe, Burke, Fairfax, Armour, Lake Andes, Scotland, Platte, Pickstown and Parkston.

Verizon Wireless expanded its system with new sites near Freeman, Rapid City, Volin, Onida, Sioux Falls and Newell. The company launched EVDO at sites in and around Rapid City, Sioux Falls and Pierre and along Interstate 90 to allow wireless subscribers the advantage of high-speed data connections as they travel.

James Valley Wireless added two new sites in the Aberdeen area and the Rural Cellular Corporation added sites near Rosholt and Milbank.

The wireless industry's continued development is vital to meet the needs of the state's residents, according to the PUC. Better wireless service also makes the state attractive to visitors as well as businesses and industries looking to expand or relocate.

"Each new wireless site or expansion of technology is a significant benefit for South Dakota communities and citizens," said PUC Chairman Gary Hanson. "Wireless communications are essential to our quality of life, public safety, education and economic development. These improvements strengthen the wireless network and make our lives better."

The availability of EVDO across the state enables wireless users to stay in touch with speedy delivery of information. "Access to EVDO is a real benefit to people who are on the go and those who reside in rural areas where high-speed Internet wasn't available before," said PUC Vice Chairman Steve Kolbeck. "Technology is really racing and it's good to see the wireless companies in South Dakota stepping up their presence here."

Expansion is expected to continue. Alltel representatives reported to the PUC that about a dozen additional sites will go online yet in 2008. The commission points to the federal Universal Service Fund as impetus behind many companies' investment in South Dakota. All telecommunications companies contribute to the federal USF. Qualifying telecommunications carriers can apply for support from the fund to build infrastructure in high cost areas, among other things. A carrier must be designated as an eligible telecommunications carrier (ETC) in order to receive the support. The South Dakota PUC has granted ETC status to Alltel Wireless, James Valley Wireless, the Rural Cellular Corporation, Swiftel and Long Lines Wireless. Verizon Wireless has not requested ETC status.

"The schedule of build-out so far in 2008 is keeping pace with what occurred in 2007 and that was a good year for infrastructure," said Commissioner Dusty Johnson. "I'm really pleased to see new sites being constructed in some of the rural areas where wireless service was lacking. The PUC will encourage the companies to continue their expansion here," he said.