The United States Department of Agriculture has awarded grants and loans for $5.6 million for two projects in West Virginia. The awards, for projects in Tyler and Wetzel counties, are part of the USDA ReConnect Pilot Program.

In the Wetzel County project, The Ohio Valley Industrial and Business Development Corporation will use $2.1 million in grant funding to construct a FTTH network using gigabit passive optical networking in the state. Matching funds will bring the total to $4.2 million. The service will cover 1,909 households, five educational facilities, a health care center and nine critical community facilities over 48 square miles.

In Tyler County, a ReConnect grant of $1.7 million and an equal amount in loan funding will go to Tyler County Development Authority to provide broadband service to 1,366 households, three educational facilities, a health care center and five critical community facilities spread over 26 square miles.

“Both of these projects are providing critical communications investments in some truly rural areas of West Virginia,” U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Utilities Service Administrator Chad Rupe said in a press release. “Through USDA’s ReConnect program, these counties will get access to the latest broadband technology, and that will have a positive economic impact for the farms and ranches, small businesses and families that live in these communities.”

The Reconnect program was inaugurated in March 2018. It consists of $600 million in loans, grants and hybrid loan/grants aimed at improving broadband in rural areas. The USDA received 146 applications between May 31 and July 12 for a total of $1.4 billion. More than $200 million has been awarded.

The USDA detailed the second round of funding last week. The plan is similar to the ongoing first round, with a few tweaks. The total is for $550 million. The application period is between January 31 and March 15, 2020.

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