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Hope, Connection and People: The Top SDN Articles of 2020

collage of images from the top blog articles of 2020

The SDN Communications Blog tells stories: about member companies, employees and issues that affect the telecommunications industry. The stories from 2020 certainly reflected the environment of the world, with people adjusting their schedules to stay safe during a global pandemic. But there were also stories of growth and investment, as well as faces of the industry.

Let’s take a look back at SDN's top 10 blog articles from 2020:

A MESSAGE OF HOPE

Perhaps it’s fitting that the most read blog from 2020 was a message that Mark Shlanta, SDN Communications CEO, shared when the global pandemic started to have an impact in the region – affecting SDN’s member companies, employees and all industries. New acronyms became the norm as most SDN employees joined the WFH (work from home) trend to slow the spread and protect essential network employees.

“We know you’re relying on us,” Shlanta said.

Increased bandwidth needs? Added security services? Tools to be more productive from home? SDN was at the ready thanks to strategic network planning, diverse fiber rings and employees from member companies across the region who care for the 50,000-mile fiber network.

Top Article of 2020
  1. A Message From SDN Communications' CEO
    A letter to customers: SDN’s network was built for times like these. We take great care to build a protected network. And over the past 30 years, you have just come to rely on us. That’s what we call UPTIME.

STAYING CONNECTED

Federal and state agencies awarded millions of dollars in 2020 to fund projects to provide broadband service to the unserved and underserved communities across South Dakota.

The need for rural broadband has never been more apparent than it is now – as our nation manages the coronavirus national emergency. Access to telehealth services, remote learning for school children, and remote business operations all require access to broadband.
― U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue

Perdue likened the need for broadband connectivity in rural America to the need for electricity and telephone services decades ago.

In May of 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect Pilot Program announced it was awarding $3.3 million to SDN for broadband projects in the Black Hills through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Broadband ReConnect program. SDN will match it with a $1.1 million investment. Congress approved the ReConnect loan and grant program in 2018, awarding $600 million to expand broadband in rural areas.

In June 2020, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem announced the 14 independent broadband projects selected to receive a total $11.5 million in grants from the state. The 2020 Legislature approved $5 million in state funding and $6.5 million in funding came from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). Ten SDN member companies were among those to receive grants for projects.

Top Articles: Staying Connected
  1. USDA Invests $3 Million in High-Speed Broadband with SDN Communications for Black Hills Communities
    U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced the USDA is investing $3.3 million to provide broadband service in the unserved and underserved Black Hills South Dakota communities of Nemo, Rochford and Silver City.
  2. Black Hills fiber project is hopeful start of something bigger
    State-of-the-art, fiber internet is coming to three communities in the Black Hills, thanks to a $3.3 million federal grant and $1.1 million investment from SDN.
  3. Governor Kristi Noem Announces Broadband Grant Awards
    Governor Kristi Noem announced today that 14 projects have been awarded grants to fund broadband projects to better connect unserved and underserved areas across South Dakota.

GROWTH & PROGRESS

You don’t have to be a huge company to make a significant impact in connecting communities and people — Woodstock Communications of Minnesota is proof. Our readers were drawn to a feature on the company established more than seven decades ago that has evolved from offering phone service to being known as an advanced player in the telecommunications industry all from its location near Ruthton, Minnesota.

The original five-town market has added eight more communities and was approaching 2,500 broadband subscribers, with a goal of reaching 3,000 by the end of 2020. The company is part of a network partnership that SDN manages throughout southern Minnesota which gives Woodstock the opportunity to serve regional providers, such as banks and hospitals that need access to multiple areas.

In South Dakota, housing shortages have slowed growth in some communities. However, help is available thanks to the investments of three regional businesses. In 2020, SDN Communications and its 17 member companies in South Dakota joined three regional businesses to invest in a housing development initiative to address the housing crunch.

The East River Electric Power Cooperative of Madison is administering the Rural Electric Economic Development (REED) Fund, which supports private developers and non-profits who create homes. The REED fund was established in 1996 and has been involved in hundreds of projects. By working together, these organizations can efficiently help address the housing shortage in their shared business footprints. This year we’ll be able to update readers on the status of some of these new housing options.

Top Articles: Growth & Progress
  1. Small but ambitious telecom keeps getting bigger
    Woodstock Communications remains a progressive, ambitious and growing telecom. The company is continuously looking for new and underserved areas to extend fiber and wireless services.
  2. SDN joins effort to spur more housing development in region
    SDN Communications and its 17 member companies across the state, which have been concerned about the issue for several years, have joined with three other regional business organizations to help address the housing crunch.

PEOPLE

Stories about people also seemed to resonate the most with our blog readers last year. There were several work-from-home stories shared throughout the year as the WFH concept was new for many of us — including the majority of SDN employees.

Experienced at working out of their home, Brad Lingen and Julie Clark Lingen shared tips on how to make working from home easier — especially when it’s become an office space for two. Brad moved many of his work office items to his newly set up home office, while Julie had worked from home for more than seven years.

Some of their suggestions included keeping a routine, having a dedicated workspace and to be wary of easy access to the “break room,” aka the kitchen. It’s also where the couple regularly met for lunch.

Perhaps the best piece of advice?

Be grateful for what is still good in your life. We’ve got a lot to be thankful for.
― Julie Clark Lingen | Self-employed life coach, author and speaker

At the end of the year, Rich Coit retired as Executive Director of the South Dakota Telecommunications Association. He had a solid 27-year career in the industry and was well-respected. We wish him well in his retirement and are excited to introduce you to his successor, Kara Semmler, in the very near future.

Because of solid planning, SDN was able to continue to bring on interns as part of the team during the pandemic. Over the years SDN’s internship program has helped grow its workforce as well as provide great on-the-job experiences for college students. Depending on the department, some of last year’s interns worked at SDN while others adhered to the WFH directive. Many interns have gone on to other jobs and to serve their communities and we caught up with a few of them last year to learn what they’re up to today.

Finally, also in 2020, SDN’s newest blogger joined the team — that’s me! I’ve enjoyed learning more about the telecommunications industry, SDN’s member companies and helping share the stories of the people who deliver the UPTIME. And I’m looking forward to what’s ahead this year!

Top Articles: People
  1. Home-based working couple sees reasons to be positive
    Julie Clark Lingen and her husband, Brad Lingen, reflect one of the new trends in the Sioux Falls workforce. They both work from a home office, at least for now.
  2. Rich Coit says ‘so long’ after 27 years of leading SDTA
    Rich Coit has played an important role in helping rural telecoms across the state to develop broadband connectivity and other telecommunications services for nearly 28 years. He's now moving to the next phase of his life as he retires from the SDTA.
  3. Interns at SDN Communications build successful careers
    Interns at SDN are entrusted with real work duties across the company. Some stayed with the company in permanent positions. Others have built successful careers elsewhere across the region. We checked in with two to see where they are today.
  4. Welcome the newest member of SDN’s blogging team
    Please welcome Amy Bennett Smolik to SDN Communications’ blogging team. Amy is joining me as a writer and contracted service provider for SDN. Like me, she’ll assist SDN’s full-time marketing staff, which is led by Vernon Brown, the company’s vice president of marketing and community relations.