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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, Sept. 30, 2010
CONTACT: Leah Mohr, deputy executive director, South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, (605) 773-3201 or (605) 280-4327

Commission provides access to funding for telecommunications companies

PIERRE, S.D. – The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission has deemed 42 telecommunications companies as eligible to collectively receive millions of dollars in high cost support from the federal Universal Service Fund for maintaining, upgrading and building out their networks in South Dakota in 2011. The Universal Service Administration Company estimates that companies invested more than $95 million in USF monies for high cost support in South Dakota in 2008.

Companies seeking federal USF high cost support must file a certification request with the PUC. The filing includes an overview of the company's planned infrastructure investment, using anticipated federal funds as well as company capital. Companies specified that 2011 funds will be used for projects to enhance system reliability and enable more service options to more customers. The process is repeated annually with the PUC notifying the Federal Communications Commission and USAC of the certification by Oct. 1.

The USF was established to promote the availability of quality services at just, reasonable and affordable rates for all consumers as well as increase nationwide access to advanced telecommunications services. All telecommunications carriers that provide service internationally and between states pay into the USF based on their revenues.

"It's just as important for someone in rural Grant County to have access to reliable telecommunications service as it is for someone in suburban Chicago," said PUC Chairman Dusty Johnson. "Providing that service in sparsely populated South Dakota comes at a higher cost than it does in urban areas. That's why USF support is so vital to our state's telecommunications companies. Customer rates would be extraordinarily high without it," he stated.

"The value of the USF in South Dakota essentially extends outside our borders," said PUC Vice Chairman Steve Kolbeck. "The basic premise of the USF 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 increases," he explained.

Commissioners discussed and voted on the certifications during their regular meetings. The Commission took action on the requests at meetings in July, August and September.

"Telecommunications is an especially dynamic industry," said PUC Commissioner Gary Hanson. "Providers must continually evaluate and invest large sums to upgrade their technologies in order to remain competitive and to provide a level of service their customers need and expect. Companies must commit their own resources in combination with the USF," he said.    

Companies certified by the PUC for high cost support USF funding include: Alliance Communications Cooperative, Beresford Municipal Telephone Co., Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Telephone Authority, Citizens Telecommunications Company of Minnesota, City of Brookings Municipal Telephone Department, City of Faith Municipal Telephone Co., Farmers Mutual Telephone Co., Fort Randall Telephone Co., Golden West Telecommunications Cooperative, Hills Telephone Co., Interstate Telecommunications Cooperative, ITC, James Valley Cooperative Telephone Co., James Valley Wireless, Jefferson Telephone Co., Kennebec Telephone Co., Knology of the Black Hills, Knology Community Telephone, Long Lines Wireless, McCook Cooperative Telephone Co., Midcontinent Communications, Midstate Communications, Midstate Telecom, Northern Valley Communications, Qwest Corp., RCC Minnesota, Red River Rural Telephone Association, Roberts County Telephone Cooperative Association and RC Communications, RC Services, RT Communications, Santel Communications Cooperative, Splitrock Properties, Stockholm-Strandburg Telephone Co., Swiftel Communications, TrioTel Communications, Valley Telecommunications Cooperative Association, Valley Telephone Co., Venture Communications Cooperative, WWC License, Western Telephone Co., West River Cooperative Telephone Co., and West River Telecommunications Cooperative.

Other programs supported by the USF include the Low Income program, which provides for Lifeline and Link-Up assistance; the Schools and Libraries program to provide affordable telecommunications services to all eligible schools and libraries; and the Rural Health Care program, which provides funding to eligible health care providers for telecommunications services necessary for the provision of health care.

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