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North Dakota’s lack of population density has proven challenging as urban North Dakota strives to provide its rural counterparts comparable services when new technologies arise. And it is for many of the same reasons rural America struggles to meet those same needs throughout the nation – cost and geography.

Rural America keeps the nation’s pulse beating strong creating an interdependence between cities and rural communities that cannot be ignored. Rural America provides the food and natural resources cities need for survival and the cities provide a market place for rural goods. America has undergone many tough economic times and it is often rural America that suffers most. Digital communications contain the critical link between urban and rural America to maintain the nation’s social and economic health. Broadband access allows rural Americans to participate in activities such as telehealth, telecommuting, distance learning, improved emergency communications, culture, democracy, and the global economy. All of which are important to the lives of North Dakota citizens and are potentially addressed through the provision of a statewide network.

In the 1930s, the federal government stepped in to assist the implementation of electricity to rural America by creating the Rural Electric Administration (REA) which hastened the delivery of power to all locations in the country. In addition, cooperatives and federal programs also allowed telephone service to reach rural America. Today’s rapidly growing service is high speed internet connectivity, specifically broadband and related services.

North Dakota is among the nation’s most rural states. North Dakota is the nineteenth largest state geographically and the third smallest in population. The state has 9.3 people per square mile; over half of the population lives in the state’s ten largest cities. While the State has succeeded in providing internet connectivity via a statewide network to connect government and education that spans to the state’s four corners, many rural communities are still underserved putting them at risk from receiving high speed internet services relating to public safety, health, and education. It is imperative to maintain the health of North Dakota’s network infrastructure because it provides access and connectivity not only for state and local government but also to schools, public libraries, and health care facilities.

Backbone Evolution



Two university networks were merged into the state government consolidated network. Few other states have been able to merge higher education networks with state government.


Migrated to Frame Relay. The State required a solution with higher speed and more bandwidth. That need spurred the industry to deploy frame relay that had speeds of 56Kbps to 1.5Mbps.


Statewide Network RFP issued for ATM service. The need for QoS for video and higher speeds again spurred the industry to deploy a bigger and faster network. ATM offered speeds of 1.5Mbps to 6Mbps.


Implementation of the Statewide Technology Access for Government and Education Network (STAGEnet):

  • Rebuilt core network
  • Doubled bandwidth
  • 456 sites connected (202 schools)
  • Video sites increased from 58 to 257


Internet demand increased and the State upgraded to 2 OC3 connections (one in Bismarck and one in Fargo).


Internet demand increased and the State upgraded to 2 OC12 connections (one in Bismarck and one in Fargo).


STAGEnet Infrastructure Services Upgrade. Increased the core from 2 nodes to 4 nodes with a 2.5GB Resilient Packet Ring:

  • Connections increased to 675
  • Video sites increased to 350
  • Wireless solutions were added
  • Migration to VoIP began


STAGEnet Ethernet Services deployment. The increase of bandwidth and video use spurred the industry to provide a Statewide Ethernet solution. The conversion to 10Mbps to K-12 schools began in June 2009 with state government following.


Increase the network’s core bandwidth and increase internet bandwidth as required.


Planning the deployment of a 700 MHz 4G wireless broadband solution coordinated with neighboring states.

Related Statewide Alliances