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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, April 24, 2008
CONTACT: Leah Mohr, communications manager, South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, (605) 773-3201

New cell tower activated near Florence

PIERRE, S.D. – Wireless service around Florence received a boost with the recent activation of a new cell tower by Alltel Wireless. Company officials advised the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission that the new tower was turned on April 18, 2008.

PUC Chairman Gary Hanson gave credit to residents of Florence for their role in making the new site a reality. "The PUC held a community meeting in Florence last summer to discuss wireless issues. We heard first-hand the types of challenges those folks, particularly rural residents, encountered with their wireless service. Not being able to rely on their wireless phones was a real concern for farmers and ranchers in the area," he said.

Following the meeting with the PUC, Florence residents spearheaded a petition effort to further demonstrate their support for improved wireless service. The PUC sent the petition to wireless companies eligible to provide service in the area.

"According to census statistics, the population of the community of Florence is around 300," said PUC Vice Chairman Steve Kolbeck. "More than 400 people signed the petition for improved wireless service, including some from Watertown, Wallace and Waubay. That indicates there are a lot of visitors and travelers that will benefit from better cell service," he said.

"Several new wireless sites have been activated since the beginning of the year," said PUC Commissioner Dusty Johnson. "The PUC is aware of new sites by Verizon Wireless going up around Freeman and Rapid City while Alltel added to its network around Pierre and Fort Thompson. Cell phone coverage in South Dakota is expanding, and we expect it to continue, as the companies continue their build-out efforts," he concluded.