According to the 2010 Census, North Dakota is 48th in population in the country and the 17th most expansive. Such a geography is not appealing to any entity, commercial or otherwise, who might consider building fiber-to-the-home in North Dakota. There are more populated cities, as in all states, but human density in North Dakota is the 4th lowest.
With North Dakota geography and demographics in mind, it is reasonable to expect any North Dakota fiber optic project would to need to be big. North Dakota Cooperatives, Dickey Rural Networks and Dakota Central Telecommunications, can use the word "gigantic" to describe their recently completed ftth project. The network covers 10,000 square miles, about 1/7th of the state, and every business and home - about 18,000 households - are connected to the network.
"You talk about connectivity, we are attached to the entire world here," Gov. Jack Dalrymple said. "If we had talked that way even 10 years ago in North Dakota, a lot of people would have laughed and said you don't know what it's like to be in a rural area."
While internet access was available via DSL prior to the fiber launch, local businesses and residents could see the difference immediately. Bruce Ordahl, manager of a local printing company commented for Republic article by AP Reporter Dave Kolpack:
"We have some big graphic files and have always been looking for more speed," said Bruce Ordahl, who oversees 40 employees at Gwinner-based J&M Printing. "We have really saved a lot of time and money with the fiber."
Ordahl said it would take about five minutes to download a typical file when his company was using a DSL connection. That same file now takes about 10 seconds, he said.
In addition to working together to complete this long term project, both companies are providing Internet classes to subscribers and potential subscribers. This investment by two local providers shows how local interests can fill the gaps left by the big telcos with no interest in places like North Dakota.
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.
Take a few minutes to watch how fiber affects all sorts of lifestyles in this corner of North Dakota: