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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, Oct. 18, 2010
CONTACT: Leah Mohr, deputy executive director, South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, (605) 773-3201 or (605) 280-4327

South Dakota delegation to discuss Broadband Plan with FCC

PIERRE, S.D. – South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds and Public Utilities Commissioners Dusty Johnson, Steve Kolbeck and Gary Hanson will meet with members of the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, D.C., this week to discuss the proposed National Broadband Plan. The group will stress the need for the federal commission to fully understand the effect the plan, in its current state, could have on South Dakota.

"The citizens of South Dakota understand the need for high-speed Internet connections," Gov. Rounds said. "Since 1995, we have emphasized the need in communities of all sizes when we started wiring every school building in the state to the Internet. New policy changes proposed in Washington, D.C., would permanently place rural America in a competitive disadvantage with the rest of the world. This is an opportunity for us to share Rural America's story with key decision makers in Washington."

Key points of the discussion with the FCC on Oct. 19, 2010, will focus on ensuring that any changes to the current funding structure for small rural carriers will enable them to continue to build on their successes and will emphasize the advantages of working with state commissions to ensure unserved and underserved areas receive access to broadband services.

"There are aspects of the proposed plan that are bad for South Dakota," said Commissioner Johnson. "The plan calls for download speeds of 100 megabits per second for urban areas, but proposes only 4 megabits per second for rural areas. High speed Internet is going to be incredibly important to the future of this state, and we want to make it clear to the FCC that second-class speeds and second-class connectivity isn't good enough for South Dakota," he explained.

Among the issues addressed in the Broadband Plan is the Universal Service Fund. The plan proposes shifting funding away from voice communications to broadband access. Telecommunications carriers in South Dakota currently receive substantial USF support to maintain, upgrade and build out voice networks to serve their customers.

"The USF portion of the Broadband Plan needs another hard look from the eyes of rural America," said Commissioner Kolbeck. "South Dakota rural telecommunications carriers have made significant infrastructure investments in their networks. Continued support from the USF is imperative for these carriers to be able to deliver services, including broadband access, to their customers at affordable rates," he said.

The 300-plus page Broadband Plan was released by the FCC for review in March 2010. The commission will consider comments during the next year and is expected to issue an order on the plan at the end of 2011. FCC leadership has described the plan as a platform that will create opportunity and enable America to compete globally.

"The intent of the National Broadband Plan is noble, but the scope is narrow by not fairly considering the rural parts of our country," said Commissioner Hanson. "For this plan to be a truly national success story, like the interstate highway system, for example, the needs of rural America have to be addressed," he continued.

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