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Completing federal BTOP highlights SDN's 2012

SDN Communications is completing a highly noteworthy year and expects company growth to continue in 2013, according to Bryan Roth, president of the company’s Board of Managers.

The major highlight of 2012 was the recent completion of $25.7 million in improvements to SDN’s fiber optic network.

The work was done as a federal stimulus project under the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). The three-year project was funded by a $20.6 million federal grant and a $5 million contribution from SDN.

“I think that’s been a great project for broadband in rural South Dakota and throughout the state,” says Roth, who is also the general manager and CEO of Salem-based TrioTel Communications Inc.

TrioTel is one of the 17 independent phone companies that own SDN. The 17 local companies serve about 80 percent of the South Dakota’s geography and help SDN provide an array of broadband services to businesses, organizations and government agencies across the state.

TrioTel’s affiliation with SDN helped it secure its own $12.3 million stimulus grant and a related loan to improve connections to homes in its market.

Two other SDN member companies, Venture Communications and Midstate Communications, also benefitted from stimulus awards for improvement projects in central South Dakota.

“Being able to work with SDN was a definite advantage in being able to secure our own award,” Roth says. “SDN brings just a multitude of benefits to its members.”

More businesses connect to SDN's fiber optic network

SDN has brought high-tech telecommunications opportunities to rural South Dakota that are equal to or better than services available in urban areas in the United States, he says.

SDN serves as an access point to the outside world for member companies as well as for SDN’s own clients.

SDN’s stimulus effort, called Project Connect South Dakota, helped the company add approximately 400 miles to its cabling infrastructure in rural and underserved areas. About 300 more anchor institutions were connected to the system. The new institutions that now have access to the fiber-optic network include schools, hospitals, public safety offices, government buildings and National Guard facilities.

The nine-member Board of Managers, with help from SDN CEO Mark Shlanta, strives to maintain SDN as the region’s leading technology company.

Shlanta does a great job providing input and guiding the board, says Roth, who has presided over the panel since June 2001.

Offering more cloud-related management services to businesses is among the possibilities for the future.

“We’re trying to lead South Dakota as a technology company and advance beyond the other companies out there,” Roth says.

“With the quality management staff and the employees at SDN, I don’t see where we’d be trailing any company in South Dakota, at this time. I think we’re a leader in the communications field. There’s no doubt about it.”

SDN Communications company growth expected to continue

In 23 years, SDN has evolved from offering phone service connections to providing a broad range of telecom solutions.

“The growth of SDN has been astounding. It really has. I just can’t thank the employees enough,” Roth says.

Challenges for the future will include pressure to keep the cost of services down, Roth says.

There also are concerns about the certainty of federal funds that helps provide network services in rural America.

But company growth is expected to continue. Businesses and other clients are increasingly transporting more data and high transmission speeds have become a must.

“Right now, the demand for broadband is so high, it’s so needed. The need for speed is so high it’s unbelievable,” Roth says. “There’s a lot of opportunities out there for broadband.”