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Funding for broadband projects is available through S.D. Broadband Initiative

If South Dakota rural libraries need help with technology, the South Dakota Broadband Initiative may be able to assist with both advice and funding.

The overall scope of the project, which was funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and is run by the S.D. Bureau of Information and Telecommunications, is broad: Enhancing and increasing broadband service to ultimately increase economic development opportunities throughout the state.

One part of that, according to State Broadband Capacity Manager Mike Waldner, is making sure community anchor institutions such as libraries, healthcare facilities, schools, government and public safety offices, and other community support locations have access to broadband services. When those CAIs have access to broadband, it not only helps their own purposes, but they would likely make that service available to the public in some form as well, Waldner said.

“The need is huge,” Waldner said. Broadband availability can affect economic development potential, health issues, social connections and general quality of life, and many CAIs don’t have the technology to make good use of it. Their equipment is often old and in some cases obsolete. “It’s pretty crazy, some of the stuff we’re seeing out there,” he said.

The first part of the process is free to all community anchor institutions: They can schedule a visit by a technician to do an initial technology assessment. Waldner said he hopes more CAIs take advantage of this service, as it is a chance for them to talk to a neutral third party about their technology needs.

Then, once they have an idea of where they stand technology-wise and what they might need, CAIs can apply for funding for their projects. The Broadband Initiative received $600,000 to give out in grants of $10,000 or less to help CAIs improve broadband access. So far they have given $90,000 in two rounds of grant-giving.

Two types of projects are most common in what they’ve funded to date. One is increasing access points, so CAIs can have broadband available for 25 people when before they had access for just four, for example. The other is segmenting traffic, so the CAIs’ internal broadband connection is separate from the connection used by the public.

The grant requires a 20 percent match from the CAI.


See related story: Rural libraries survive and thrive with community support [3]