The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced it would invest $9 billion to expand broadband service to unserved and underserved rural areas in Virginia. The award was made through the ReConnect program and Scott County Telephone Cooperative is the USDA ReConnect awardee.
Scott County Telephone Cooperative will use the funds to build a fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) network connecting 97 businesses, 416 farms, 7,496 people, two educational facilities, a fire station and town hall to high-speed broadband internet in Scott County in rural Virginia. Funding came in the form of a grant.
In March 2018, Congress provided $600 million to USDA to expand broadband infrastructure and services in rural America. The final award in Phase 1 of the program was made in May, as Telecompetitor reported.
Congress subsequently added $100 million to the ReConnect budget in connection with the CARES Act and several grants have been made to USDA ReConnect awardees through the CARES Act funding.
Phase 2 of the ReConnect program has a budget of $550 million. As of mid-April, the USDA had received 172 applications for $1.57 billion in Phase 2 of the program. The application window has now closed.
“Access to a high-speed internet connection is a cornerstone of prosperity, and unfortunately many of America’s rural communities lack access to this critical infrastructure,” said USDA Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Bette Brand, in a prepared statement. “USDA is committed to leveraging all available resources and being a strong partner to rural communities in deploying high-speed broadband e-Connectivity to the people, businesses and community facilities that don’t have access yet.”
Joan Engebretson contributed to this report.