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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, Aug. 31, 2007                                

CONTACT: Leah Mohr, South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, (605) 773-3201

South Dakota gains wireless towers; PUC plans conference

PIERRE, S.D. – Residents and travelers in 11 South Dakota counties have improved cellular coverage, thanks to the addition of 14 sites to the state's wireless telecommunications infrastructure. Since April, Alltel Wireless has turned on sites around Wagner, Eureka, Faith, Lemmon, Selby, Alcester, Sioux Falls, Brookings (two sites) and Doland. Additionally, Verizon Wireless launched its own expansion with sites in Sioux Falls, Dakota Dunes and Spearfish. Also, Sprint boosted service in the Watertown area.

Representatives of wireless companies will discuss their presence in the state at the PUC-hosted conference "Connecting South Dakota: Wireless Technology" in Sioux Falls, Sept. 18. They will be among more than 30 presenters who will gather for the event at the Sioux Falls Convention Center.

 "A number of these communities worked with the PUC to demonstrate to the wireless providers the need for better service," said Dusty Johnson, chairman of the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission. "Eureka, Alcester and Selby held grass-roots community meetings to discuss wireless coverage and its effect on economic development and public safety. At the upcoming conference, we'll hear community representatives describe how wireless, or lack of, is impacting their town and rural South Dakota in general," he added.

Other conference sessions will address wireless Internet, zoning for wireless towers, the future of wireless technology and traditional providers entering the wireless market. State and national experts will discuss how South Dakota may be affected by the reform of the Federal Universal Service Fund. Steve Largent, CEO of CTIA-The Wireless Association and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, will deliver the keynote address. Largent spent 14 years with the Seattle Seahawks and served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1994 to 2001.

"Wireless companies do their own research when planning where and when to make improvements in their networks. However, the PUC and community action have certainly been successful in influencing those decisions," said PUC Vice Chairman Gary Hanson. "South Dakota competes with the rest of the nation for new towers and the PUC serves as an advocate on behalf of the citizens for more reliable coverage and part of that effort is more towers."  

"We have listened to South Dakotans express frustration about cell coverage. A variety of people, from farmers to snowplow operators, have told us how much they value reliable wireless service and I really believe we are making excellent progress," said PUC Commissioner Steve Kolbeck. "These latest additions bring the number of new cell sites in 2007 to 25 and we expect more by the end of the year, which is great news for many of our rural areas."

Pre-registration for the Connecting South Dakota: Wireless Technology conference is strongly encouraged. The pre-registration deadline has been extended to Sept. 7. Conference details, including the registration form can be found online at Questions about the conference may be directed to the PUC at (605) 773-3201