South Dakota Internet pioneer dissolving service

One of the pioneers in delivering Internet service to residents of rural South Dakota will cease service at year's end, the company announced December 10.

WCENET, a subsidiary of West Central Electric Cooperative, first brought Internet service to central South Dakota in 1998. At one time, the company served more than 1,000 households.

"West Central Electric is proud that it was among the first companies in South Dakota to offer Internet service to our members more than a decade ago," said Steve Reed, chief executive of operations of the cooperative. "But today, our members can access high-speed Internet options that just make more sense in our digital world."

With just 40 customers currently using WCENET, West Central Electric has agreed to convert those customers to Golden West and make available high-speed Internet services. As of December 31, WCENET will be dissolved.

West Central Electric will maintain its MainStreet Messenger emergency response program, Reed added. The 24-hour monitored phone system, available to seniors and persons with special needs, can alert dispatchers to an individual's illness or injury and request emergency medical assistance.

Denny Law, general manager and chief executive of operations of Golden West, said his company would welcome former WCENET subscribers to Golden West.

"We will reach out to WCENET customers and welcome them to Golden West," Law said. "Since most, if not all, of the WCENET customers are currently Golden West telephone cooperative members, this is a natural fit. We will be able to offer, among many things, high-speed Internet services and discounted bundle prices."

Golden West and its subsidiaries currently provide service to more than 43,000 telephone customers, 15,000 Internet subscribers, 10,000 cable television viewers, 3,000 paging customers, and some 225 call center customers.