October 27, 2022 – After a highly competitive process, Pioneer Connect of Philomath, OR has been awarded $24,952,007 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in the 3rd round of funding for the ReConnect program.
This ReConnect 3 grant will bring Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) to 1,528 locations in Benton, Lincoln, and Polk counties. 296 miles of fiber will be constructed to provide increased speeds and enhanced reliability, eliminating many challenges faced by members of these communities.
Jim Rennard, General Manager said: “High-speed broadband fosters economic development, allows rural communities to remain vibrant, and enables people to work and live wherever they choose. Telehealth, remote learning, and changes in working arrangements all require broadband access. This project will make all this possible. Building fiber in rural areas is challenging due to the terrain and expense of infrastructure. Fiber is the gold-standard and enables Pioneer to meet our members’ broadband needs for decades to come. FTTH means our customers don’t have to make compromises on speed or quality, share a connection with their neighbors, or worry about things that impact service like weather, trees, or terrain with other technologies. This Reconnect 3 award allows us to begin building this gold-standard network for our members today.”
“Partnering with local, community-driven cooperatives and utilities like Pioneer Connect, USDA’s ReConnect program bridges reliable, affordable internet to rural families, farms, and businesses that would otherwise lack access to essential services,” said Margi Hoffmann, State Director for USDA Rural Development in Oregon. “With this grant, Pioneer will go the distance, bridging the digital divide for last mile communities so that all Oregonians have the chance to connect and prosper.”
This grant will be combined with an $8,317,336 loan bringing the total project to $33,269,343. Pioneer will have five years to complete this project once the final documentation is completed and funds are made available. At this time, engineering details are not finalized.
Not only will the fiber network ensure these communities have ample bandwidth for today, but it will also power the community’s growth and development for decades to come. A fiber network levels the playing field for small, rural communities to compete with larger, urban areas for business growth, expansion, and economic development.
“None of this would be possible without the dedication and commitment Pioneer’s employees have serving to our members,” said Jim Rennard. “They always go the extra mile and are here for you whenever you need them.”
Pioneer Connect’s long-term strategic plan is to replace its copper network with FTTH across its 1,300 square-mile serving area. Being awarded grants like Reconnect 3 helps expedite the delivery of fiber to rural communities. Pioneer’s current FTTH in Philomath will bring symmetrical speeds up to 1 GIG to more than 3,000 homes and businesses. Pioneer Connect is finalizing plans to go out to bid with their next FTTH project in Waldport, Oregon, which includes more than 1,300 locations.
“Access to reliable and affordable high-speed broadband is essential to the overall success of rural communities,” said Director of Network Operations, Brad Madison. “Fiber promotes economic stability, health, and education. We are excited about this opportunity which aligns with Pioneer’s strategic plan and puts us one step closer to bringing fast internet to all our members and communities who want and need fiber internet.”
Members of the Cooperative and community residents who are part of this project will receive a letter or email announcing the USDA grant along with information about the project. Community members can also go to fiber.pioneer.net to learn more about fiber, submit their interest and stay up to date on the progress.
With symmetrical speeds up to 1 GIG, residents will experience faster downloads, enhanced video streaming, real-time gaming, and virtually unlimited speeds for work-from-home, telehealth, and distance learning. FTTH, coupled with Pioneer’s state-of-the-art whole-home Wi-Fi 6 product, Premium Wi-Fi, will provide uninterrupted bandwidth in homes and businesses. Enabling a seamless experience for multiple devices simultaneously. FTTH will provide residents and businesses with all the capacity they need to grow as new technology develops.
Rennard and Madison both expressed their gratitude to the residents of these communities that provided valuable information for the grant application.
This marks the third grant the Cooperative has received for its FTTH projects.
THE BENEFITS OF FIBER TECHNOLOGY INCLUDE:
- Provides speeds allowing users to download content at up to 1,000 megabits (1 GIG) per second.
- Provides enough speed to work from home, take advantage of telehealth services, participate fully in distance learning, and simultaneously download music and movies while gaming and streaming HD and 4K content, with virtually no lag time.
- Has positive impacts on education, business, and future economic development.
- Increases property values
- Can easily handle the current and future demands of numerous connected devices in homes and businesses.