rural_townThe U.S. Department of Agriculture announced $207 million is being made available for rural broadband funding yesterday. The funding is a combination of loans and grants and is a part of USDA’s Telecommunications program, which has provided financial assistance to over 500 providers across the country, according to the agency.

This round of rural broadband funding includes 8 grants and 10 loans. The grants will fund a variety of projects in Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia. The loans will finance broadband access projects that reach 71,000 residents and businesses in 74 counties in rural parts of Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.

“Broadband infrastructure is vital to our economy and quality of life in rural America. Yet, today nearly 40 percent of rural residents and businesses lack access to the same quality service available in urban centers,” said Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett in a press release. “Under Secretary Perdue’s leadership, USDA is working hard to bridge this gap. From access to health care to workforce training and connection to global markets, broadband is truly a lifeline to prosperity in rural communities.”

Craw-Kan Telephone Cooperative of Kansas is receiving the largest loan, $59.7 million, to help fund 1,170 miles of fiber which will bring FTTP to 13 exchanges. Several grant recipients, including the Central West Virginia Development Association (CWVDA), will receive $3 million for broadband projects. CWVDA will use the funds to help bring wireless broadband to 3,600 residents and households.

Traditional rural telcos are receiving most of this funding, which is in line with the historical focus of the USDA’s Telecommunications program. But there are a couple non-telco organizations in this round. iGo Technology is a rural ISP founded in 1994, serving rural Virginia. They too received a $3 million grant to help fund an FTTP project that will reach 676 unserved locations in Buchanan County, Virginia.

Most of the loans and grants appear to be focused on FTTP projects, but there are a few wireless broadband projects as well. Details of the loans and grants can be found here.

Image courtesy of flickr user María de los Angeles Quiroz.