Recently, PCMag rated North Dakota and South Dakota as two states with some of the fastest connectivity in the U.S. Rural cooperatives have brought high-quality connectivity to this region of the country and, when sifting through our archives, we realized that we haven't given South Dakota cooperatives the coverage they deserve.
Venture Communications Cooperative connects more than 30 communities in central South Dakota with some of the fastest Internet service in the U.S. South Dakota cooperatives have taken advantage of government loans and grants in order to bring much-needed Internet access to their rural members. With federal stimulus money, Venture Communications began building an extensive Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network in 2011.
Only 25 percent of the U.S. population has access to FTTH, a leading technology that can provide Internet service faster than 1 Gigabit per second (1,000 Mbps). Venture Communications offers a Gigabit to some of the most rural residents in South Dakota. The co-op is only one of two companies in South Dakota to be Gigabit certified by the NTCA Rural Broadband Coalition.
Venture Communications Speed Tiers
Note that all speeds are symmetrical, which allows subscribers to be more than consumers of Internet content, but participants in the online economy. In rural regions where farmers and ranchers need to use high-tech ag applications to monitor crops and livestock and send reports or keep abreast of quickly changing prices, the ability to upload is key. In smaller communities where employment and educational opportunities are limited, high-speed connectivity like that available from Venture can offer another way to earn a living or a chance to pursue a degree or training through distance learning.
Venture Communications serves about 10 percent of the entire state - more than 8,000 square miles. To provide fiber to all their members required a major capital investment. The federal government offered stimulus funding in 2010 to improve broadband connectivity around the country, and Venture Communications jumped at the opportunity.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) gave Venture Communications $2.6 million in loans and $2.6 million in grants to build a FTTH network to about 750 homes and 100 businesses. Venture Communications continued to expand the fiber network and by the end of 2013, the network had nearly covered their entire service area.
More Ventures by Venture Communications
Venture Communications also participates in SDN Communications, a collaboration of 17 small independent telephone companies and cooperatives. They received $20 million from the federal government and contributed $5 million themselves to an expansive fiber network. SDN Communications now provides connectivity to community anchor institutions, such as schools, libraries, and government buildings across 8 states.
In 1952, the co-op started as Sully Butes Telephone Cooperative and in 1954, the USDA provided a loan of $1.7 million (about $16 million today) to build a telephone network. In the 1980s, the co-op built cable networks in many of the communities. The co-op changed the name to Venture Communications in 2002.