The telecommunications cooperatives of North Dakota are leading industry efforts to bring fiber optics technology to all corners of the state, but are not stopping there. The cooperatives are working hard to push the speed and carrying capacity of broadband connections upward.
Recently, Consolidated Telcom, Dickinson, announced that it now has the capability to bring gigabit level broadband service to the cooperative’s members, customers and communities.
Late last year, in the northeastern part of North Dakota, Polar Communication, Park River, announced that it had achieved gigabit capability in its service territory.
Consolidated calls its gigabit level service “G.NET.” One gigabit is 10 times faster than 100 megabits. It is most often referenced as “gigabit,” “1 gig,” or “1000 meg.” Gigabit service is 100 times faster than the average broadband speeds operating in the United States today.
“Consolidated has been the technology leader in southwestern North Dakota for the past 54 years and we are excited to continue that tradition,” says Paul Schuetzler, Consolidated CEO & general manager. “Our commitment has been to our rural customers as well as those living within our communities. We are now deploying gigabit technology that will empower economic growth and development for the businesses and residents in our region.”
In late January, Consolidated held a press conference for city officials and government leaders to announce its new G.NET service.
Schuetzler says the gigabit broadband capabilities will be made available first to Consolidated customers in the communities of Dickinson, Belfield, Amidon, Hettinger and Mott that have fiber to the premise. He says gigabit capabilities will be established for all Consolidated service areas and exchanges by the end of 2015.
Rhonda Fitterer, marketing manager for Consolidated, indicates that most customers of the cooperative operate with broadband speeds in the 20-40 megabit range. She says that the technology transformations taking place in homes, on farms, and at businesses push megabit requirements consistently upward.
“Everything is heading to the ‘smart’ mode,” Fitterer says. She says this trend encompasses the smart home, which features an array of technologies that can be operated – even remotely – from mobile devices. Fitterer says homes and businesses now feature several uses for high speed Internet, including personal computers, appliances, iPads, audio/video systems, and much more.
“You have the gamut of technology,” Fitterer says. “And the more things you use, the more bandwidth you need.”
Fitterer says the standard work for Consolidated is to now get the right broadband usage profile for each customer. The challenge comes in furnishing the broadband connection at the capacity which is right for each customer – and one that the customer won’t soon outgrow.
Among its many capabilities, Consolidated’s G.NET will allow its users to:
- Have more devices connected without sacrificing speed;
- Achieve higher cumulative, download/upload speeds;
- Enhance the overall experience while using the Internet;
- Stream video with little or no buffering;
- Provide nearly instant access to web and social media sites;
- Work from home access to office networks/computers using virtual private networks; and
- Use gaming applications and online games like Xbox or PlayStation plus;
Schuetzler points out that G.NET service will initially be more appealing and cost effective for businesses where success hinges on moving very large sets of data and information instantaneously. For example, he sees G.NET suitable for health care centers, or engineering businesses, which move very large information packages around the country, and the world.
Schuetzler says reaching the G.NET milestone is an extension of the firm belief held by the Consolidated board of directors. The board feels strongly that fiber-based information technology needs to be extended to all residents in the cooperative’s service territory.
“The board has been involved and supportive in pushing fiber optics out to every one of our customers in the cooperative,” Schuetzler says. He says initial success at bringing fiber optics based service to communities has been followed by extending fiber optics to rural areas, even the most sparsely settled areas of very rural counties such as Slope, Bowman, Hettinger and Adams.
“Our board says, as a cooperative, we’re going to get the same services out to every one of our cooperative members,” Schuetzler says.
He adds that telecommunications finance programs from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and its Rural Utilities Service have been very valuable in helping Consolidated develop the latest broadband capabilities in an economical manner.
Article & Permission given by Kent Brick, North Dakota Living