News Column

Fiber optic Internet to benefit Hosmer, Leola and Ipswich areas

August 10, 2014

By Katherine Grandstrand, American News, Aberdeen, S.D.



Aug. 10--Rural education used to be a bit of a trade off. Families would gain smaller class sizes and more personal attention for each student, but might sacrifice programming or technology that was only available in larger cities.

As local telephone co-ops have invested in better infrastructure for rural communities with the help of U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development loans, options for technology in schools big and small have flourished.

Herreid-based Valley Telecommunications has been laying fiber-optic lines throughout its coverage area, said Darin LaCoursiere, CEO and general manager of Valley Telecommunications.

"Our schools are so important to these rural communities, and so it's important that they have the best services that are available," LaCoursiere said.

In order to fund such an undertaking, Valley Telecommunications received a $19 million loan through USDA Rural Development.

"Given the isolation of so many of these communities, it's so important that they be able to have that kind of connection to lots of resources," said Elsie Meeks, USDA Rural Development state director. "Whether it's the best educational resources or medicine or markets -- all of that."

Valley Telecommunications laid the lines to the rural residences first and will finish the project next year when it wires Hosmer, Leola and Ipswich, LaCoursiere said.

Classroom benefits

Having faster Internet service has allowed teachers at the Leola School District to utilize technology and know that students will be able to complete assignments at home, said Val Geffre, technology coordinator for the district.

"One of the big things, of course, is just being able to connect to the expertise, the resources, at the local level that a lot of the rural schools weren't able to do in the past," Meeks said.

Once the faster Internet speeds come to Leola, it will make technology use in the classroom that much easier, Geffre said. High school and junior high math and science classes utilize iPads in the classroom, and there are laptop carts that all grades can use.

"I think it will just make it less of an issue," Geffre said. "I'm hoping once the fiber optics come in that will eliminate a lot of those power glitches."

Other benefits

Students aren't the only once benefiting from better telecommunications infrastructure. Farmers are able to utilize better Internet speeds, and the local co-ops provide service for cellular towers, creating better reception for drivers, LaCoursiere said. It also adds the ability to run cable TV to farms.

Follow @kgrandstrandAANon Twitter.

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(c)2014 the American News (Aberdeen, S.D.)

Visit the American News (Aberdeen, S.D.) at www.aberdeennews.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


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Source: Aberdeen American News (SD)


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