USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack Announces $401 Million Investment in Broadband Internet Access in Rural Areas


Courtesy/USDA

USDA News:

WASHINGTON, DC – United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the Department invests $401 million to provide high-speed Internet access for 31,000 rural residents and businesses in 11 states, as part of the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to invest in rural infrastructure and affordable high-speed internet access for all.

This announcement includes a group of investments from Reconnect Program, and a USDA-funded award Loan and loan guarantee for telecommunications infrastructure program.

The ministry will make additional investments for rural broadband internet later this summer, including funding President Biden’s bipartisan Infrastructure Act ReConnect program, which provides a historic $65 billion investment to extend affordable high-speed Internet to every community in the United States.

“Connectivity is critical to economic success in rural America,” Vilsack said. “The Internet is vital to our growth and continues to act as a catalyst for our prosperity. From farm to school, from household to international markets, connectivity is driving positive change in our communities. The investments I am announcing today will help 31,000 people and businesses in large and diverse regions of the country access critical new opportunities. Under the leadership of President Biden and Vice President Harris, the USDA knows that rural America is the backbone of America, and prosperity here means prosperity for everyone.

USDA Rural Development State Director Patricia Dominguez added, “USDA Rural Development is the only federal agency that focuses solely on the needs of residents, businesses and rural communities. That’s why this funding announcement for these broadband and communications projects is so important to underserved communities here in New Mexico.

USDA is supporting broadband internet investments in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, North Dakota and Texas through the through today’s announcement. Several awards will help rural people and businesses on tribal lands and those in socially vulnerable communities.

The projects announced today here in New Mexico are:

  • Continental Divide Electric Cooperative Inc. in Grants receives a $3,681,000 grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) network. This network will connect 606 people, eight businesses, 34 farms and two public schools to high-speed Internet in Cibola and McKinley counties. Continental Divide Electric Cooperative Inc. will make high-speed Internet affordable through the Federal Communications Commission‘s Broadband Emergency Benefits Plan and Affordable Connectivity Plan. This project will serve the Laguna Pueblo, Acoma Pueblo and Acoma Off-Reservation Trust Land tribal entities and socially vulnerable communities in Cibola and McKinley counties;
  • The Eastern New Mexico Rural Telephone Cooperative (ENMR) will receive a $14,749,747 grant to also deploy a fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) network. This network will connect 41 people, one business and nine farms to high-speed Internet in Chaves, Colfax, De Baca, Guadalupe, Harding, Lincoln, San Miguel, Socorro, Torrance and Union counties in New Mexico. ENMR Telephone Cooperative will make high-speed Internet affordable by offering subscribers price plans that match the prices offered to all other members of the FTTP Cooperative. All three plans will include free Wi-Fi service. This project will serve socially vulnerable communities in the following counties: Colfax, De Baca, Guadalupe, San Miguel and Socorro;
  • Peñasco Valley Telecom Receives $28,927,570 Grant to Expand Communications Network to Connect 2,976 People, 50 Businesses, 13 Farms, and 8 Public Schools to High-Speed ​​Internet in Chaves, Eddy, Lincoln, and Otero Counties in New -Mexico. This loan will serve socially vulnerable communities in Otero and Eddy counties;
  • Tularosa Basin Telephone Company Inc. is receiving a $5,825,102 grant and $5,825,102 loan to provide new high-speed service to 466 people, 28 businesses and 16 farms in Lincoln and Otero counties. The telephone company will make high-speed Internet affordable by participating in both the Federal Communication Commission’s Lifeline program and the Affordable Connectivity program. The discounts offered by these programs will allow eligible households to receive service as low as $4.20 per month. This project will serve the Mescalero reserve and the socially vulnerable community of Otero; and
  • Valley Telephone Cooperative, which provides telephone service in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico, receives a $44,924,000 telecommunications infrastructure loan guarantee to provide expanded service to counties in ‘Hidalgo and Luna. The money will be used to replace copper-based facilities with fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) facilities. A total of 1,317 miles of buried fiber optic cable will be constructed and 2,755 optical network terminals will be installed along with all necessary equipment to provide the enhanced service. This will result in improved broadband service to provide improved upload and download data rates for each subscriber, and in addition will improve voice services.

Context, ReConnect program: To be eligible for ReConnect program funding, an applicant must serve an area where high-speed Internet service speeds are less than 100 megabits per second (Mbps) (download) and 20 Mbps (upload). The applicant must also commit to constructing facilities capable of providing high-speed Internet service at speeds of 100 Mbps (download and upload) to each location within its proposed service area.

To learn more about investment resources for rural areas, visit www.rd.usda.gov or contact the nearest USDA State Office of Rural Development.

Context, bipartisan infrastructure law: President Biden has forged consensus and compromise among Democrats, Republicans, and independents to demonstrate that democracy can bring great victories to the American people. After decades of talking about rebuilding America’s crumbling infrastructure, President Biden has delivered the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act – a historic investment in America that will change people’s lives for the better and get America moving again.

The bipartisan Infrastructure Act provides $65 billion to ensure that every American has access to affordable and reliable high-speed Internet through a historic investment in the deployment of broadband infrastructure. The legislation also lowers the costs of internet services and helps bridge the digital divide, so more Americans can make full use of internet access. USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunity, create jobs, and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans in rural areas. This aid supports the improvement of infrastructure; Business development; lodging; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed Internet access in rural, tribal and very poor areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.

The USDA touches the lives of all Americans every day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris administration, the USDA is transforming the US food system with greater emphasis on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe food, healthy and nutritious in all communities, creating new markets and income streams for farmers and producers using climate-smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in clean energy infrastructure and capacity in the rural America, and committing to equity across the department by removing systemic barriers and creating a workforce that is more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.

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