Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue took part today in a virtual press conference via videoconference to announce the latest winner of USDA ReConnect CARES Act funding for rural broadband. The $16 million grant went to Tallahatchie Valley Electric Power Association, which will use the money to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network to connect 2,082 people, 331 farms, 32 businesses, a post office and six fire stations in rural Mississippi.
“The future will depend on connectivity like what we’re announcing here today,” said Perdue. “It’s not railways, it’s not waterways, it’s connectivity where we’re going to see our growth.”
Tallahatchie Valley Electric Power Association CEO Brad Robison, who also participated in the virtual press conference, said the funding for the deployment will change lives in Mississippi.
He noted, for example, that row crop farmers in the project area will be able to take advantage of precision agriculture to be more competitive. He also said cattle producers that have been limited to local markets will be able to sell cattle across the country via virtual sales.
Local economic development specialists believe high-speed broadband “will open the economy like never before,” Robison said.
Tallahatchie Valley also will contribute funding toward the project.
USDA ReConnect CARES Act Grant
The Tallahatchie Valley USDA ReConnect funding came from an additional $100 million that was added to the program in the CARES Act passed by federal legislators earlier this year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first round of the ReConnect rural broadband funding program, which was completed several weeks ago, awarded $744 million to a wide range of broadband providers nationwide to bring service to a total of 162,000 households, 22,000 small businesses and farms and more than 500 health care, education and community facilities.
The award to Tallahatchie Valley was made in Round 2 of the ReConnect program, which originally had a $550 million budget that was expanded via the CARES Act. USDA received 11 Round 2 applications that were eligible for the additional $100 million that was added to the program through the act. Today’s Mississippi award was the second made to one of those 11 applicants.
According to today’s press release, more of those applicants will be awarded funding in “the coming weeks.”