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Rural telephones say they're Internet-ready

By Dave Thompson

Bismarck, ND – A spokesperson for North Dakota's rural and independent telephone companies says -- despite what some may think, there is not a "digitial divide" in rural North Dakota.

"We have over 180 small and rural North Dakota towns right now with DSL technology, high-speed internet," said David Crothers of the Association of Rural Telephone Cooperatives. "They have access to services in rural North Dakota today that people all over the planet would be envious of."

Crothers told an Interim Legislative committee that the companies have been willing to spend a lot of money to upgrade their services.

"They do all their business in North Dakota. Their dollars do not go beyond our state's borders. Their fate is exactly the same as it is of their customers. They send their children to school there, they earn their money there, they spend their money there. They have done a tremendous job of deploying technology in Rural North Dakota."

Crothers is not in favor of allowing commercial use of the state's high-speed Internet backbone. He says local phone customers will end up paying more for their services -- if the companies move to the state system.

The interim committee is looking at telecommunications services -- and what services may need to be upgraded.