N.D. to Build Broadband Network

WASHINGTON (06/21/2000) - North Dakota plans to begin building a statewide broadband network in the fall, connecting major government institutions and schools.

By the end of this year, the network will connect 280 locations, building on the state's current frame-relay network. The following year, the network will extend to 264 locations, extending beyond higher education institutions to K-12 schools.

The contract for the network will be awarded June 30. The network is expected to cost $3 million for this year and about US$20 million for 2001. No funding has been provided yet.

The network is one part of a four-pronged technology vision that includes tax and public policy considerations, work force development and economic development in addition to the network, according to North Dakota's chief information officer, Curtis Wolfe.

"This is not multiple choice," Wolfe said Tuesday at the GovTech conference in Washington D.C. "We have to address these issues simultaneously in order to stay competitive."

The network was mandated as part of a bill in 1999 that made the CIO a cabinet position. Wolfe is the state's first CIO.

When the network is completed at the end of 2001, it will support voice, data and video communications, and be connected to 544 physical institutions located in 222 cities.

However, universal access would be very difficult, Wolfe said. Of the remaining 139 cities that will not be connected with this network, many have fewer than 100 people. For those areas, options such as wireless connections are being considered, Wolfe said.

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