Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced $85.8 million in funding to strengthen access to high speed broadband for rural America.
"Broadband is fundamental to expanding economic opportunity and job creation in rural areas, and it is as vital to rural America's future today as electricity was when USDA began bringing power to rural America 80 years ago," said Vilsack. "The investments USDA is making today will deliver broadband to rural communities that are currently without high-speed internet service, or whose infrastructure needs to be upgraded. Improved connectivity means these communities can offer robust business services, expand access to health care and improve the quality of education in their schools, creating a sustainable and dynamic future those who live and work in rural America."
Below is a summary of the loans and grants in today's announcement.
- In Minnesota, a $12.63 million loan to Garden Valley Telephone will include fiber and electronics upgrades to improve the system for rural subscribers. Consolidated Telephone will use a $12.27 million loan to provide greater bandwidth to subscribers, allowing delivery of enhanced services with network upgrades, infrastructure additions and add a new fiber ring.
- South Carolina's FTC Communications will use a $12.38 million loan to upgrade their wireless telecommunications network to 4G/LTE (Long-Term Evolution), meeting growing demand for reliable, higher speed services.
- In Montana, Triangle Telephone Cooperative Association will use a $29.95 million loan to upgrade their system with fiber to supply greater bandwidth to increase speed and the quality of service for their rural Montana subscribers.
- In Wisconsin, LaValle Telephone Cooperative will use $7.61 million to deploy fiber and replace a switch to provide rural subscribers with improved services, including voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and the flexibility to connect to Gigabit Ethernet and IP interfaces.
Community Connect Grants:
- In Alaska, the Arctic Slope Telephone Association Cooperative, Inc. will receive a $1.4 million grant to provide Point Hope subscribers with high-speed internet service and prepare the network for an undersea fiber connection currently planned for construction within the next two years.
- Minnesota's Northeast Service Cooperative (NESC) will receive two $3 million grants for two projects to provide broadband service to subscribers on the Fond du Lac Reservation. NESC will partner with the Fond du Lac Band of Superior Chippewa.
- Oklahoma's @Link Services will receive a grant of nearly $1.5 million to provide high-speed broadband to homes, businesses and critical community facilities in parts of Seminole County.
- Virginia's Scott County Telephone Cooperative will receive $2.1 million to build a broadband network with one gigabyte of bandwidth for 540 locations in Dickenson County. This project is expected to benefit Edwards Ridge and the surrounding area by promoting economic development through improved broadband access.
Since 2009, USDA has awarded 74 Community Connect grants totaling more than $77 million to build broadband projects in rural areas that previously did not have broadband service. Nearly $20 million of those funds were to provide broadband service in tribal areas and communities of Alaskan Natives.
The Telecommunications Loan and Community Connect Grant programs are an important part of USDA's broadband efforts. Since 2009, USDA has brought new or improved broadband access to more than 1.5 million households, businesses and community education, and public safety facilities. USDA's broadband efforts are part of President Obama's continued efforts to expand high speed broadband to all Americans. Since the President took office, the private and public sectors have invested more than $260 billion into new broadband infrastructure, and three in four Americans now use broadband at home. Thanks to smart spectrum policies and world-leading technology, fast 4G wireless broadband is now available to over 98 percent of Americans.
President Obama's plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President's leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way - strengthening America's economy, small towns and rural communities.