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(NewsDakota.com) – Dakota Central Telecommunications and Dickey Rural Networks on Wednesday celebrated the completion of the largest fiber-to-the-home network in North America.

David Crothers, Executive Director of ND Association of Telecommunication Cooperatives, speaks Wednesday at Jamestown College as a small robot looks on. Photo by Mark Potts.

The two sister co-ops says they have upgraded every home and business in a 10,000 square mile area to fiber-optic internet connections. Nationwide, only about 5 percent of homes have a fiber-optic connection.

USDA Rural Development State Director Jasper Schneider said fiber is the purest, fastest form of an internet connection available.

North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple, U.S. Representative Rick Berg and others all were on hand Wednesday at Jamestown College to congratulate the two networks and speak on the importance of the development. All spoke on how a broadband internet connection allows rural communities and businesses to connect with and compete with the rest of the country.

Berg said it opens up great opportunities.

Wednesday’s celebration marked the completion of a 10-year project, started back when fiber was still a relatively new medium for internet access. Keith Larson with Daktel said his company began planning the projects back in 2002. Jeff Wilson with Dickey Rural Networks said they started their first fiber project in 2004.

U.S. Representative Rick Berg speaks Wednesday at Jamestown Colege about DRN and Daktel completing largest fiber-to-home network in North America. Photo by Mark Potts

The two companies have invested more than $90 million in the fiber networks, and combined they reach about 18,000 homes with the fiber network.

“We are investing in our community and I feel very proud to be part of our cooperative,” said Jeff Wilson, general manager of DRN.

“To step up and make these investments when you did, it was just visionary,” Dalrymple said.

USDA Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager called the region a “great role model” for the rest of the country.

“We’re going to use you as an example over and over and over again,” he said.

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