The U.S. Department of Agriculture is investing in infrastructure projects in a dozen states to improve e-connectivity in rural communities, according to USDA assistant to the secretary for rural development Anne Hazlett.
“In the modern economy, rural broadband is a lifeline to quality of life and economic opportunity,” Hazlett said. “With that impact, USDA is fiercely committed, under the leadership of Agriculture Secretary [Sonny] Perdue, to expanding access to e-connectivity in rural America.”
According to a 2018 report by the Federal Communications Commission, 80% of the 24 million American households that lack reliable, affordable, high-speed internet are in rural areas. USDA’s investments in broadband infrastructure are helping transform rural America, providing innovation and technology to increase economic competitiveness and opportunities.
USDA is investing $91 million through the Telecommunications Programs for 19 projects that will benefit more than 27,000 businesses and households in Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, North Carolina, North Dakota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia.
Here are a few examples of the projects in which USDA is investing:
- The Arkansas Rural Internet Co. is receiving a $19.9 million loan to deploy a fiber broadband system to more than 5,000 subscribers in Dallas, Calhoun and Ouchita counties in rural southern Arkansas. Approximately 25,000 people in the company’s service territory can benefit from broadband access.
- In New Mexico, Tularosa Basin Telephone Co. Inc. will use an $11.8 million loan to improve telecommunications for nearly 10,000 customers in the Carrizozo, Cloudcroft and Tularosa exchanges. Tularosa will build 176 miles of fiber-optic facilities, construct new fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) facilities and upgrade digital subscriber line (DSL) and FTTP electronics. The improvements will enhance the company’s services and provide subscribers with voice and higher broadband speeds.
- The Choctaw Nation is receiving a $2.9 million grant to construct a hybrid fiber and fixed wireless system in unserved portions of Le Flore County, Okla. This project will increase access to economic development, health care, educational and public safety opportunities for 300 households and 15 businesses. It will include a community center in Hodgen School, where the public can access computer terminals and WiFi service free of charge.