US to spend $759m for connectivity in rural America

Tom Vilsack, secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), stated today that the department will spend $759 million to provide high-speed internet access to individuals living and working in 24 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, and Palau. The money for today’s investments comes from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which allocates an unprecedented $65 billion to bring high-speed, dependable internet to every community in the United States.

“USDA is committed to making sure that people, no matter where they live, have access to high-speed internet. That’s how you grow the economy – not just in rural communities, but across the nation,” Vilsack said.

The ReConnect Program’s third funding round provided the $759 million in loans and grants.

A $17.5 million grant will be given to North Carolina’s AccessOn Networks Inc. to link thousands of individuals, 100 businesses, 76 farms, and 22 educational sites to high-speed internet in Halifax and Warren counties. By taking part in the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Lifeline and Affordable Connectivity Programs, the company will lower the cost of high-speed internet access. The Haliwa-Saponi Tribal Statistical Area and socially vulnerable areas in Halifax and Warren counties will also benefit from this project.

In Douglas, Otter Tail, St. Louis, Stearns, and Todd counties in Minnesota, Tekstar Communications will use a $12.6 million grant to build a fibre-to-the-premises network that will provide high-speed internet access to thousands of residents, 171 farms, 103 companies, and an educational facility. By offering its “Gig for Life” service, which ensures that households who sign up for internet will not have their internet fees increased as long as they remain at the same address and continue service, Tekstar will make high-speed internet accessible and cheap. Additionally, Tekstar will take part in the Lifeline and Affordable Connectivity Programs of the FCC.

An $18.7 million grant will help the Eastern Slope Rural Telephone Association in Colorado build a fibre-to-the-premises network that will provide high-speed internet to thousands of residents in the counties of Adams, Arapahoe, Cheyenne, Crowley, Elbert, Kiowa, Kit Carson, Lincoln, and Washington, as well as 898 farms and 110 businesses. Through participation in the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program, the company will lower the cost of high-speed internet.

Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, Wyoming, Puerto Rico, Guam, and Palau are among the 49 states and territories where the USDA is awarding grants. The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma, the utility authorities for the Navajo Nation, and the Tohono O’odham Nation are also on the list. These grants will also be of benefit to rural residents and businesses operating on tribal territories.

The Department announced that the third round of ReConnect financing will total $1.6 billion in 2022.

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