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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, April 4, 2007                 
CONTACT: Leah Mohr, South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, (605) 773-3201

Wireless networks expand in South Dakota

PIERRE, S.D. – South Dakota's wireless network has been strengthened with the activation of 10 new cellular sites since the first of the year. Alltel Wireless recently turned on sites near Wanblee, Howes, Onida, Bryant and Lennox. RCC Minnesota launched sites near Toronto and Willow Lake and in Sisseton. The Wireless Alliance erected a new site near Lyons. Verizon Wireless added a site near Lead.

"One of the primary reasons we are seeing this kind of development is due to companies' access to the Federal Universal Service Fund," said Dusty Johnson, chairman of the Public Utilities Commission. "The FUSF is collected from all telecommunication carriers, then disbursed back to qualifying carriers to build infrastructure in high cost areas, among other things. The idea behind the FUSF is that everyone should share the cost of providing service to as many people as possible because as more people get connected, the value of everyone else's connection goes up," he explained.

In order for a company to receive FUSF monies, the PUC must designate the firm as an eligible telecommunications carrier. Alltel Wireless, RCC Minnesota and the Wireless Alliance received their eligibility designation from the PUC in docketed applications. Verizon Wireless has not applied for the designation.

"It's encouraging to see this rate of wireless development, particularly in the rural areas of South Dakota," commented PUC Vice Chairman Gary Hanson. "We have witnessed steady growth in cell tower build out in recent years and South Dakota is currently outpacing the national trend. According to CTIA-The Wireless Association, the number of wireless sites in the U.S. expanded by 11 percent from 2004 to 2006. Our data shows South Dakota experienced a growth rate of 37 percent in the number of cell sites for that same period," he said.

"We hear from South Dakotans who want to know what the PUC can do to improve wireless service in their area," said PUC Commissioner Steve Kolbeck. "We listen to those folks, do our own research and work with the wireless providers to evaluate the area and brainstorm solutions. Sometimes the remedy is as simple as adjusting equipment on an existing cell tower. More often, however, the solution is erecting a new tower. That option takes a substantial investment of funds and time on the part of the cell company," he concluded.

The commission expects to see continued wireless development with new sites being launched during the remainder of the year. Thirteen sites were added throughout the state in 2006.