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Dave Olson, Published July 12 2012

North Dakota officials praise AT&T for $30 million in improvements

FARGO – Several area lawmakers and business people were on the same wavelength Thursday in showering praise on AT&T for investments the company has made in its North Dakota network.

“Thank you, AT&T, for enhancing our coverage and for helping close that digital divide. We really do appreciate what you’ve done,” Judy Lee, a Republican state senator from West Fargo, said at a news conference Thursday at a company store in Fargo.

AT&T officials said the company invested more than $30 million in its North Dakota network between 2009 and 2011 and is committed to increasing the system’s capacity and speed.

They said improvements include activation of 10 new mobile Internet cell sites in the state and enhancements made to 35 existing cell sites.

AT&T’s Wi-Fi network has also been expanded and is available at about 30,000 hotspots around the country, said Hardmon Williams, the company’s vice president and general manager for Minnesota and the Northern Plains.

“You can use it for free and not consume your data plan,” he said, referring to the Wi-Fi network.

Matt Winjum, a founder of Rhombus Guys Pizza, said the business would come to a halt without the connectivity AT&T provides.

“We use our phones constantly,” Winjum said.

AT&T also announced on Thursday a collaboration with the Boy Scouts of America that aims to combat bullying.

The company gave the Northern Lights Council of the Boy Scouts of America and North Dakota schools a $6,000 grant to help with the effort, one aspect of which involves Eagle Scouts giving talks in schools, said Mark Holtz, CEO of the Northern Lights Council.

“The sixth point of the Scout law is a Scout is kind,” Holtz said.

“We believe that through this grant we can make a difference in delivering anti-bullying messages to our schools. Letting kids know bullying is hurtful, it’s wrong and shouldn’t be tolerated,” he added.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555

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