More Fiber Than Cows: Report Confirms South Dakota’s Rural Networks Above Average

South Dakota has more cows than people — and if you live in a rural community in of the state, it’s possible that all those bovines may have better Internet access than you do.

South Dakota Dashboard recently released a report on rural Internet access in the state. It was commissioned by the South Dakota Telecommunications Association (SDTA), whose members include cooperative, municipal, and tribal providers. The report, Connecting South Dakota’s Future: A Report on the Deployment & Impact of Rural Broadband, found that rural connectivity in the state significantly exceeds national averages, proving that high-quality Internet access is possible even in the most rural areas.

Download the report for more details.

Summary of Findings

According to the report, more than three quarters of rural South Dakotans who subscribe to Internet access from SDTA members have access to speeds of 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload, which are the federal minimums for broadband. Across the country, approximately 61 percent of rural residents have access to those speeds.

Furthermore, 65 percent of people who subscribe to Internet access from SDTA members receive service through Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP). In contrast, only around 40 percent of rural telecommunications company subscribers nationwide are connected via fast and reliable fiber optic lines.

This is all despite the fact that, with fewer than five residents per square mile, deploying fiber costs on average $3,571 per resident in the rural regions served by SDTA members versus about $26 per resident in the more densely populated Sioux Falls.

Fast Internet Speeds Nothing New for South Dakota

In June of this year, we reported on PCMag’s annual ranking of the fastest Internet service providers (ISPs) in the country, which chose South Dakota as the state with the second fastest ISPs. Its neighbor North Dakota also landed itself in the top five fastest states.

Rural cooperatives take much of the credit for the high ranking. As was the case with bringing electricity to rural areas in the early part of the 20th century, so is the situation with high-quality connectivity in the early part of the 21st century. One of the cooperatives we've highlighted to bring fiber to members is Venture Communications Cooperative, which is delivering gigabit speeds to residents, schools, and businesses. Learn more about the role of cooperatives in deploying rural fiber optic networks by reading our 2017 report, Cooperatives Fiberize Rural America: A Trusted Model for the Inernet Era.

Way to go, South Dakota!