Midcontinent Communications is working with the North Dakota Department of Commerce on a $3 million project to extend a fiber-optic network into the energy-rich northwestern part of the state.

The project, which was jointly announced yesterday by Midcontinent and North Dakota government officials, will extend the Northern Plains Network from Minot to Williston.

“Extending the Northern Plains fiber-optic network will help meet the digital needs of our growing communities in western North Dakota,” Gov. Jack Dalrymple said. “This investment by Midcontinent Communications will not only enhance the region’s communication services, but also support the development of new opportunities for residents and businesses.”

The project, which is known as the Bakken Extension, is already under construction, and once it’s finished, it will connect Williston with the Northern Plains Network, the multi-state fiber backbone developed and operated by Midcontinent Communications.

“The Bakken Extension means western North Dakota will have access to greatly expanded data capacity, faster speeds and world-class telecommunications services,” said Midcontinent President and CEO Pat McAdaragh. “Every community and business within a serviceable distance of our route from Minot to Williston gains from this project.”

McAdaragh also said the project was privately funded.

Midcontinent’s network connects directly to major network hubs in Minneapolis; Fargo, N.D.; and Sioux Falls, S.D. The extension from Minot to Williston will have an initial capacity of 100 Gbps, which is expandable to 4 terabits per second as need and usage rise.

“Rapid growth around the Bakken Formation is creating demand on all manner of infrastructure, from housing and water to roads and technology,” North Dakota Department of Commerce Commissioner Alan Anderson said. “Modern telecommunications facilities and connections are vital to development in the area.”

Midcontinent serves more than 275,000 residential and business customers in North and South Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.