USDA invests $3 Million in high-speed broadband for Black Hills communities

WASHINGTON, May 12, 2020 — U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced that USDA is investing $3.3 million to provide broadband service in the unserved and underserved communities of Nemo, Rochford and Silver City in the Black Hills of South Dakota. This funding is part of USDA’s round one investments through the ReConnect Pilot Program.

“The need for rural broadband has never been more apparent than it is now — as our nation manages the coronavirus national emergency. Access to telehealth services, remote learning for school children, and remote business operations all require access to broadband,” said Secretary Perdue. “I am so proud of our rural communities who have been working day in and day out, just like they always do, producing the food and fiber America depends on. We need them more than ever during these trying times and expanding access to this critical infrastructure will help ensure rural America prospers for years to come.”

Sd Fiber Route

The blue lines west of Rapid City depict the ReConnect fiber route to be built by SDN Communications.

SDN Communications will match USDA’s $3.3 million grant with $1.1 million of its money to construct 45 miles of fiber infrastructure. This award will extend broadband availability to 292 residents, two farms and 14 businesses in Pennington and Lawrence counties.

“Those granite hills surrounding Nemo, Rochford, and Silver City are hard to penetrate,” said SDN Communications CEO Mark Shlanta. “In fact, burying fiber will cost more than $65,000 a mile. It is an expensive project that would not pencil out without this public-private partnership.”

Although expensive, Shlanta says reliable connectivity is necessary for the residents and tourists. Without fiber optics, Black Hills wireless telephone and data service are also unreliable. This project could help.

“Emergency service providers have told me about bad accidents — cars, ATVs, snowmobiles — where victims and emergency service providers have no cellphone service. We hope this project will change that and improve public safety.”

SDN has also submitted a 2020 ReConnect grant application to expand from the current award.

“The Black Hills have always been on SDN’s build list. I do not live there, but I am a South Dakotan who enjoys spending time there,” Shlanta said. “I believe this project and future expansions will make the region an even bigger draw.”

Categories: Local News, South Dakota News