USDA is offering $190.5 million in grants and loans to make broadband and other advanced communications infrastructure improvements in rural areas.
“Modern telecommunications and broadband access is now as essential to the businesses and residents of rural America as electricity was in the 1930s,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, in making the announcement. “USDA is committed to ensuring that rural Americans have robust broadband and telecommunications systems. The investments we are announcing today will provide broadband in areas that lack it, help rural-serving public television stations begin using digital broadcasts, and support other telecommunications infrastructure improvements.”
USDA is providing assistance through the Community Connect Grant program, the Public Television Digital Transition Grant program and the Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan program.
Community Connect grants establish broadband service in rural areas to boost economic growth and offer educational, health care, social and public safety benefits. Public television grants help public television stations serving rural areas acquire the equipment they need to transition from analog to digital broadcasts. Telecommunications infrastructure loans help maintain, upgrade or expand rural telecommunications networks.
Congress reauthorized the public television grant program in the 2014 Farm Bill.
Through this announcement, USDA is providing $190.5 million for 25 projects in 19 states, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Funding is contingent upon the recipients meeting the terms of their grant or loan agreements.
Among Cotton Belt states, Arkwest Communications in Arkansas is receiving a $24 million telecommunications loan to provide voice, broadband, and internet TV service to nearly 4,000 customers and to make other system improvements.
Nexus Systems, in Monroe, LA, is receiving a $2.5 million Community Connect grant to provide high-speed broadband in the Powhatan, LA, area. Powhatan is sparsely populated, economically distressed and considered a persistent poverty area. USDA is targeting assistance to the region through its StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity initiative.
Source – USDA