The USDA ReConnect Program has continued its string of rural broadband investments with a grant award to The Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative to deploy a FTTP network to connect rural Brunswick and Halifax counties in Virginia. The USDA ReConnect Virginia award was for $1.5 million.
The Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative network potentially will serve as many as 1,964 people, 34 businesses, 27 farms, a fire station and two post offices.
The award is the second the cooperative has gotten in the two rounds of the ReConnect program. In the first round, it was awarded almost $3.8 million to deploy a FTTH network making symmetrical 100 Mbps or greater speeds available to 1,254 households, four educational facilities and two critical community facilities spread over 101.72 square miles.
In all, the second round of the program has made 80 awards to 34 states and territories that are valued at $631,298,158. The second round program limit was set at $550 million, but last month, the USDA told Telecompetitor that it can go beyond the limits of the announced investment levels because some awards were made as loans. The interest on those loans can be used to push the amount invested beyond the announced limit.
The first round of the USDA ReConnect program was budgeted at $600 million, but the USDA ended up awarding $774 million by the time that program concluded in May. Some of the extra funding came through an additional $100 million added to the program through the CARES Act.
There have been two other USDA ReConnect Virginia awards made to cooperatives. The Central Valley Electric Cooperative got a large grant — $28 million – to serve 17,023 households in the first round. The other grant, which was made in the second round, was for $9 million to the Scott County Telephone Cooperative.
There has been a lot of activity in the second round of the program. Last week, the program announced investments of $46 million in 10 projects in seven states. There were three awards each in Iowa and Oklahoma, one each in New York, Kentucky and Colorado and a project that will serve residents in both North Dakota and Montana.