North Dakota's average download speed for internet service was 4.2 mbps in 2009, putting it well below the national average and in 36th position. However, this was a considerable improvement on 1.7 mbps the previous year. The fact that this is largely a rural state, with a population density of 9.3 per square mile, makes providing a statewide broadband service something of a challenge, especially trying to extend DSL to remote areas.
However, a report by the North Dakota Department of Commerce concluded that a rural high speed service was not a problem. Although the US Department of Agriculture states that only one in three farms nationally has access to broadband internet services, expanding fiber optic cable networks mean the Northern Great Plains is well connected. ISP Dakota Carrier Network covers every community in North Dakota while Verizon Wireless has been adding sites throughout the state and invested $160 million in the first half of 2009.
The North Dakota Department of Transportation announced in November 2009 that it is to provide public wifi access at fourteen visitor centers throughout the state. This will increase the number of hotspots, which are currently clustered around Grand Forks, Bismarck, Fargo and a few other urban areas. There are also plans to provide wireless internet access for attorneys in city courtrooms.
Like all states, North Dakota has applied for stimulus funds and in December 2009 the North Dakota Information Technology Department was awarded $1.6 million for mapping and planning. A more controversial application has been that from internet provider Flow Mobile, which wants $29.1 million to create a statewide wireless network. Although it has backing from some elements of state government, there are many doubters, particularly other internet providers, who say the company's "smart antenna" technology is unproven and is incompatible with the rest of the country.
A stone marker in Rugby identifies it as being the "Geographic Center of the North American Continent". The state is mainly flat, with significant hills in the west. North Dakota endures some of the most extreme temperatures on earth, with cold winters and hot summers.
Most of the state is farmland, with agriculture being the largest industry followed by petroleum and food processing. Fargo is the largest city followed by Bismarck, the state capital, then Grand Forks and Minot.
Cities in North Dakota likely to have, or soon to receive, fiber optic cable internet services include Fargo, Bismarck, Grand Forks, Minot, West Fargo, Mandan and Dickinson. Locations in ND with highest population counts will be targeted first by providers, though relatively high speeds can be achieved with dial-up or DSL through companies such as Netzero and Charter Communications Cable.