The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) this week announced four awards in the first round of the ReConnect Pilot Program, which is meant to improve broadband connectivity in rural areas.

Yesterday, the USDA said it made a grant of $4.79 million for creation of a FTTP network in Sweetwater, County, WY. All West will build the network, which will provide speeds as fast as 1 Gbps in two service areas that include almost 320 households, 20 businesses, 18 farms and schools in Farson and Granger, WY.

On November 25, USDA announced an investment of $5.2 million through Wave Wireless LLC in Kansas. The funding will be used for a FTTP network that will serve areas covering 1,390 households, 16 businesses and 23 farms. The press release did not say if the funding was a loan, grant or hybrid loan/grant, which are the three possible funding mechanisms the USDA is employing.

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On the same day, the USDA announced an investment of $5.13 million in two projects in Utah and western Colorado. Beehive Telephone Company will received $2.4 million to construct a FTTP network in Garfield, Wayne and Box Elder counties. The network will reach 141 households, eight farms and ranches, seven small businesses and the school and fire department in Snowville, Utah.

At the same time, the USDA said that Emery Telecommunications & Video will receive $2.7 million to build a network in San Juan County in UT and Dolores County, CO. The investment will impact 528 homes, 20 farms and ranches, 15 small businesses, the fire department, the sheriff’s office and schools in Dove Creek, CO. The structures of the two investments were not reported.

The funding is part of the first round of ReConnect investments by the USDA. The total budget of the program is $600 million, split equally between the loans, grants and hybrid structures. The goal of the program is to improve speeds in areas that have less than 10 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload speeds.

The USDA has aggressively announced investments during the past two months:

  • On Nov. 21, the ReConnect program made a grant of $4.3 million to Seneca Telecommunications, a telecom provider owned by the Seneca Nation. The funding will create a FTTH network available to more than 1,000 households, 58 businesses, 25 farms, three educational facilities, one healthcare facility and one critical care facility in the Seneca Nation’s Cattaraugus Territory in western New York.
  • On Nov. 18, the ReConnect program awarded $41.6 million to Grand River Mutual Telephone to provide funding 2,288 households, 17 businesses and 39 farms in Missouri and southern Iowa.
  • Earlier in November, an award of $7.2 million was made to The Heartland Telecommunications Company of Iowa. The money will be used to provide services to 27 farms and 868 rural households in Iowa and South Dakota. The telco will deploy FTTP networks capable of 1 Gbps symmetrical services.
  • Also earlier this month, the USDA awarded a $27.5 million grant to Star Telephone Membership Corp. of Clinton, NC that will support almost 8,750 households. At the same time, the USDA said that more than 3,000 households will get service via a $4.2 million loan to Oklahoma Western Telephone Company. In early November, the USDA announced an award of $3.8 million to Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative.
  • In October, The USDA made a grant of $9.75 million to Orangeburg County, S.C. The deployment will make service available to 3,911 households, 17 rural businesses, 13 educational facilities, nine critical community facilities and a health care center.
  • The first award was a $2.85 million grant in October to the Forked Deer Electric Cooperative in Tennessee. The money will be used to increase speeds to 100 Mbps for 347 households and one critical care facility spread over 435 square miles.

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