The U.S. Department of Agriculture is investing $23 million in two broadband projects in North Dakota as part of the ReConnect Pilot Program. The USDA ReConnect awards will go to rural local exchange carrier Polar Communications and Daktel Communications. Daktel is a competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC) and regional network owned by several independent telcos.
Polar Communications will use a $21.2 million loan/grant combination to build a FTTP network that will reach 2,237 households, six educational facilities, one heath care center and one critical community facility in Grand Forks, Walsh and Pembina counties. Daktel will use a grant of $1.8 million to provide broadband services to 406 households and three educational facilities over a 354 square mile area.
USDA ReConnect Awards
“Providing critical communications investments in rural areas of North Dakota is important because when rural America thrives, all America thrives,” USDA Rural Development North Dakota State Director Clare Carlson said in a press release. “Polar Communications and Daktel Communications will use USDA’s ReConnect Program to provide essential broadband technology to rural areas, which is a utility as important as water, sewer and electricity. North Dakota farms and ranches, small businesses and families in these communities will experience a positive economic impact from access to broadband e-Connectivity.”
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 totally $1.4 billion. So far, far more than $200 million has been awarded. 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.