The U.S. Department of Agriculture is investing $91 million in e-Connectivity initiatives in 12 states. The USDA rural broadband funding will go toward networks in Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, North Carolina, North Dakota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia, and is expected to help 27,000 business and households.
“In the modern economy, rural broadband is a lifeline to quality of life and economic opportunity,” Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett said in a press release. “With that impact, USDA is fiercely committed under the leadership of Agriculture Secretary Perdue on expanding access to e-Connectivity in rural America.”
The press release provided some examples of the projects in which investments will be made:
- The Arkansas Rural Internet Company is receiving a $19.9 million loan to deploy a fiber broadband system to more than 5,000 subscribers in Dallas, Calhoun and Ouchita counties in rural southern Arkansas. Approximately 25,000 people in the company’s service territory can benefit from broadband access.
- In New Mexico, the Tularosa Basin Telephone Company Inc. will use an $11.8 million loan to improve telecommunications for nearly 10,000 customers in the Carrizozo, Cloudcroft and Tularosa exchanges. Tularosa will build 176 miles of fiber-optic facilities, construct new fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) facilities, and upgrade digital subscriber line (DSL) and FTTP electronics. The improvements will enhance the company’s services and provide subscribers voice and higher broadband speeds.
- The Choctaw Nation is receiving a $2.9 million grant to construct a hybrid fiber and fixed wireless system in unserved portions of Le Flore County, Oklahoma. This project will increase access to economic development, health care, educational and public safety opportunities for 300 households and 15 businesses. It will include a community center in the Hodgen School where the public can access computer terminals and WiFi service free of charge.
More money is set to flow into rural connectivity in 2019. In October, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said that a plan on how to divvy up an upcoming $600 million USDA rural broadband pilot was nearing completion and likely would be in place by the end of the year.