USDA announces more funding for rural broadband in states, territories


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More than $190 million for advanced communication infrastructure, including broadband, is headed to several states and territories, the Agriculture Department announced Wednesday.

The funding comes through the USDA’s Community Connect Grant program, the Public Television Digital Transition Grant program and the Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan program.

In all, the latest round of funding includes provisions for 25 projects and 19 states, plus Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. However, according to the release, the funding to different projects is “contingent upon the recipients meeting the terms of their grant or loan agreements.”

USDA document with the funding information says the most funding to a single state went to establish a fiber-to-the-premises network in Tennessee for more than $29 million. Washington state also received more than $24 million to establish a similar network, as did South Carolina, which received more than $23 million.

In Arkansas, 4,000 customers are slated to receive access to voice, broadband and Internet television through a more than $24 million Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan that will establish a fiber-to-the-home-network.

In the Virgin Islands, a $750,000 grant will work to replace analog facilities with high-definition digital equipment through a public television grant. Puerto Rico will also received more than $450,000 to replace analog microwave radio transmitters with a digital alternative.

“Modern telecommunications and broadband access is now as essential to the businesses and residents of rural America as electricity was in the 1930s,” Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in the release.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (Credit: Wikimedia) Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (Credit: Wikimedia)

The latest round of grants come almost two months after the department awarded a round of loans to rural Midwest areas to increase broadband service in three states on the heels of President Barack Obama’s 2012 executive order establishing the White House Rural Council, which allowed a venue for a multibillion-dollar funding program for rural development.

In addition to the Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan program, the Community Connect Grant version focuses on boosting economic growth through establishing broadband service. The public television grants are designed to help refresh rural public television stations with digital broadcasting technology and were congressionally authorized under the 2014 Farm Bill.

“USDA is committed to ensuring that rural Americans have robust broadband and telecommunications systems,” Vilsack said in the release. “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.”

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Arkansas, broadband, Congress, Government IT News, Innovation, network, Puerto Rico, rural, South Carolina, Tech, Tennessee, Tom Vilsack, U.S. Virgin Islands, Washington, White House