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Click here to read the version of this article published Prairie Business Magazine, May 2018.

BISMARCK, N.D. – The proliferation of internet usage over the past 20 years has caused an evolution in education. Students today use the internet throughout the school day to take tests, access cloud-based curricula and perform research. And they’ll tell you there’s nothing more frustrating than when their school’s internet connection is slow.

Thankfully, by next summer this will no longer be a pain point for North Dakota’s K-12 and college students.

Gov. Doug Burgum announced in March a 100-gigabit upgrade to STAGEnet, the state government’s closed broadband network. This upgrade will allow one-gigabit connectivity to all K-12 schools, higher education institutions and government agencies in the state.

It also will make North Dakota the first state in the nation to provide gigabit connectivity to every school district, giving North Dakota students a leading edge in access to technology to further their educations.

This advancement is being made possible through a contract extension between the state’s Information Technology Department and Dakota Carrier Network and its 15 owner companies. The contract allows us to complete extensive upgrades to STAGEnet by next fall, which will enable larger amounts of internet traffic to travel over the state’s network at a faster pace.

The 100-gig state network upgrade is a win-win for everyone because not only will network enjoy faster connections, but also it comes at no additional cost to the state.

It’s also the most recent example of how North Dakota has quietly become a national leader in connectivity by embracing public-private partnerships with entities such as DCN.

Prior to forming DCN, our 15 owner companies – all rural communications services providers – operated independently and provided services to customers only in their markets. Then when legislation passed in 1996 that allowed them to extend services beyond their markets, it prompted our owners to form DCN and collaboratively install a statewide fiber network to bring world-class broadband service to North Dakota residents, businesses and government agencies.

In the past decade, DCN and our owner companies have invested more than $1.3 billion in fiber infrastructure, which serves more than 164,000 people in nearly every community in the state. We reinvest in our network every year, which in turn makes it possible to upgrade the state’s network at no additional cost to taxpayers.

All government entities are connected to STAGEnet through a dedicated, private channel on our collective 40,000 miles of statewide fiber. Because these physical fiber connections are already in place, to upgrade STAGEnet to 100-gigabit, DCN and our owner companies need only to install new electronic devices at government locations and reconfigure existing equipment at points of presence (POPs) along our fiber network.

Though North Dakota is known to many as an energy and agriculture leader, the collaborative efforts of the state, DCN and our owners has also positioned North Dakota to be a leader in broadband connectivity. Thanks to the foresight of our owner companies and state leaders, we’ve been able to build one of the most extensive, reliable broadband networks available anywhere in the country.

And we continue to collaborate to create networks for government and businesses throughout the state. Customers benefit through accessing a unified network connection with DCN as the single point of contact for questions.

DCN and our owner companies are often asked how we’ve made a structure like ours work. Collaborating with 15 owner companies isn’t always simple, but we’re able to make continuous progress due to a shared common purpose: We believe North Dakotans, regardless of whether they live in a rural area or one that’s densely populated, deserve the best broadband connection out there, and we strive every day to make that happen.

DCN CEO Seth Arndorfer

DCN CEO Seth Arndorfer