broadbandThe U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect program has loaned $48 million to the Wilkes Telephone Membership Corp. to deploy high speed broadband infrastructure in eight Virginia counties.

The service, which will cover 1,847 square miles, will reach 22,604 households, 19 educational facilities, eight critical community facilities and a health center in Halifax, Charlotte, Lunenberg, Mecklenburg, Brunswick, King and Queen, Bedford and Pittsylvania counties.

“High-speed broadband internet connectivity, or e-Connectivity, is essential to economic development, quality of life and overall prosperity in any community,” U.S.D.A Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator Bette Brand said in a press release. “Under the leadership of President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Perdue, USDA is committed to being a strong partner to rural communities deploying this essential infrastructure, because when rural America thrives, all of America thrives.”

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The first phase of the ReConnect program, which was created in March 2018, consists of $600 million equally divided between loans, grants and combined loan/grants. The USDA received 146 applications between May 31 and July 12 totaling $1.4 billion. The program has now announced 50% of the first phase budget, passing the $300 million mark with this latest award.

The second round of funding was announced last month. The application period for this phase, which consists of $550 million, is between January 31 and March 15.

The $48 million loan is the largest single award in the program to date. Last November, Grand River Mutual Telephone Corporation was awarded $41.6 million for projects in Missouri and southern Iowa. The form of that funding was not announced. As a rule, the awards have been much smaller than those awarded to Grand River and Wilkes.

Virginia was a winner in the ReConnect funding previously. Last November, the Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative was awarded almost $3.8 million to provide FTTH services to 1,254 households, two volunteer fire departments and four educational facilities. The form of that investment was not announced.

Image courtesy of flickr user Sean MacEntee.

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