N.D. to build broadband network

North Dakota plans to begin building a statewide broadband network in the

fall, connecting major government institutions and schools.

By the end of this year, the network will connect 280 locations, building

on the state's current frame-relay network. The following year, the network

will extend to 264 locations, extending beyond higher education institutions

to K-12 schools.

The contract for the network will be awarded June 30. The network is expected

to cost $3 million for this year and about $20 million for 2001. No funding

has been provided yet.

The network is one part of a four-pronged technology vision that includes

tax and public policy considerations, work force development and economic

development in addition to the network, according to North Dakota's chief

information officer, Curtis Wolfe.

"This is not multiple choice," Wolfe said Tuesday at the GovTech conference

in Washington D.C. "We have to address these issues simultaneously in order

to stay competitive."

The network was mandated as part of a bill in 1999 that made the CIO a cabinet

position. Wolfe is the state's first CIO.

When the network is completed at the end of 2001, it will support voice,

data and video communications, and be connected to 544 physical institutions

located in 222 cities.

However, universal access would be very difficult, Wolfe said. Of the remaining

139 cities that will not be connected with this network, many have fewer

than 100 people. For those areas, options such as wireless connections are

being considered, Wolfe said.

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