Ardmore Telephone Company in rural Tennessee has received a $9.8 million award, evenly split between a grant and a loan, through the USDA ReConnect program. The Tennessee ReConnect award will be used to build a FTTP network to connect 4,005 people, 263 farms, 28 businesses, four educational facilities and a fire station in Benton, Giles and Lincoln counties.
The funding came through two different parts of the ReConnect program. Some funding came from the second round of the program, which has a budget of $550 million, and some funding came from the additional $100 million that was made available for theReConnect program through the CARES Act, which was passed in March in to help deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The need for rural broadband has never been more apparent than it is now – as our nation manages the coronavirus national emergency. Access to telehealth services, remote learning for school children, and remote business operations all require access to broadband,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said in a press release.
Tennessee USDA ReConnect Award
The infusion of $100 million through CARES Act funding is aimed at projects that were not approved during the first phase of the ReConnect program. To qualify to receive some of the $100 million, projects had to cover the same footprint originally proposed. Unlike the first phase of the program, which involved loans and grants, CARES Act ReConnect funding is only being awarded in the form of grants. USDA received 11 applications that qualified for CARES Act ReConnect funding.
The first phase of the program concluded in May. In that phase, the program awarded more than $698 million for 79 projects in 33 states and territories. In all, approximately 167,000 households, 17,000 rural small businesses and farms and more than 500 health care centers, educational facilities and critical care facilities were impacted. The application for the second phase closed in April. It generated 172 applications for a total of $1.57 billion.
Prior to the new Tennessee USDA ReConnect award, other recent ReConnect awards:
- $9 million to Scott County Telephone in Virginia
- $2.9 million to Big River Broadband in Missouri
- $24.2 million to Pioneer Telephone Cooperative and $5.4 million to Cimarron Telephone Company in Oklahoma
- $13.1 million to Easton Utilities Commission in Maryland