Home Part of States Newsroom
Brief
$300 million statewide high-speed internet initiative enters final stretch

Share

$300 million statewide high-speed internet initiative enters final stretch

May 27, 2024 | 1:15 pm ET
By Joshua Haiar
Share
$300 million statewide high-speed internet initiative enters final stretch
Description
Mike Waldner, the state’s broadband project manager, gives a status update during the April 10, 2024, Broadband Summit in Sioux Falls. (Joshua Haiar/South Dakota Searchlight)

About 91% of South Dakota has access to broadband service, putting the statewide ConnectSD high-speed internet initiative in its final stretch. 

“That’s a lot of work, look at that,” said Mike Waldner, the state’s broadband project manager, to attendees at the recent 2024 Broadband Summit in Sioux Falls.

About half of South Dakota had access to high-speed internet before the initiative began in 2019.

The effort now totals over $300 million, connecting over 31,000 locations that previously had slow or no internet. Setting aside projects already planned and funded, the number of locations yet to be connected is about 11,000. 

Funding for ConnectSD has included $85 million from the state, $89 million of federal funds, and $127 million of private investment from broadband providers. 

Waldner’s summit presentation was a status update on the initiative, launched by Governor Kristi Noem when she took office.

Inflation drives up cost of broadband internet projects

Waldner said the last stretch of the project focuses primarily on the Black Hills, which will be expensive. That’s because of costs associated with cutting through rock and reaching remote residents who have “6-mile driveways,” Waldner said, making the infrastructure per customer expensive. 

He said the state has been awarded another $207 million from the federal government, which will help complete the effort. 

Waldner said the initiative is an essential infrastructure investment for the state, given that rural areas with few internet customers are rarely a profitable private investment. 

“If the free market could handle it, it already would have,” he told South Dakota Searchlight. 

Waldner said connectivity is critical for education, work and health care. He said today’s average home has 17 devices connected to the internet. 

Waldner’s presentation was followed by testimonies from people who have received new or improved service since the initiative’s inception. Roni Daale, who runs Roni Daale & Co. Greenhouse in Fairview, said her shop and home had terrible internet before the broadband initiative improved it. 

Now, her business relies on it “every minute of the day,” she said, for online transactions, orders and more. 

2024-04-10-BB Summit (1)

Slides from a presentation at the 2024 Broadband Summit in Sioux Falls.