Legislation aims to ease path for new technology

South Dakota State Roundup

Published July 1, 1997  | July 1997 issue

With legislation clearing the right-of-way for the information superhighway, South Dakota expects to be well-prepared for the next millennium—and any business that relies on telecommunications.

A bill passed by the Legislature and promoted by the governor creates a policy that supports the equipment and infrastructure needed by businesses that rely on telecommunications technology, and that would ensure that state-of-the-art voice, video and data transmission will reach the state's smallest communities. State money has not been committed to the program, but a legislative study group is currently working on ways to fund construction of that infrastructure and possibly to subsidize service to high-cost areas.

While all states have some rural areas, South Dakota is nearly all rural, says Otto Doll, chief information officer of the state Bureau of Information and Telecommunications. When a company looks to do business in South Dakota or expand in the state, it will look for that infrastructure, Doll says.

And with only nine cities in South Dakota with populations over 10,000, if the state can apply the capability to those smaller communities, Doll says, it will help them remain viable. In addition to business, Doll says, the general population will take advantage of greater information access, which in turn will increase the skill sets of the work force.

This legislation complements the Wiring the Schools program, begun last year, to prepare all South Dakota schools for the latest technology. According to Doll, the biggest problem is simply getting enough power for the computers, printers and modems that the schools will need in order to provide personal computers for seven of every 10 students. Eight crews of correctional facility inmates are working throughout the state to run the wiring, Doll says, and are expected to finish about 50 schools by the end of the year.

Kathy Cobb