Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces a Recovery Act Broadband Initiative to Bring Economic Opportunity to the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation and Parts of Two States
Announcement Completes Round One of USDA Recovery Act Broadband Funding-More Than 529,000 households and 96,000 rural business in 31 States and one Territory to Benefit
WASHINGTON, March 30, 2010 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the selection of the Reservation Telephone Cooperative infrastructure broadband project to give rural residents of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation and the surrounding area access to improved economic and educational opportunities. The service area includes parts of Montana and North Dakota. Today's announcement concludes the U.S. Department of Agriculture's first round of broadband funding announcements through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act). Applications filed under the second and final round are under review and will be announced before the end of the 2010 fiscal year.
"The Recovery Act broadband projects announced by USDA will open up educational, job and business opportunities to hundreds of thousands of Americans living in rural areas," said Vilsack. "As President Obama said earlier this month, 'America today is on the verge of a broadband-driven Internet era that will unleash innovation, create new jobs and industries, provide consumers with new powerful sources of information, enhance American safety and security, and connect communities in ways that strengthen our democracy.' I am pleased that USDA, with funds provided through the Recovery Act, is leading this effort in rural parts of our country."
Today's announcement provides a $10.95 million loan and a $10.95 million grant to the Reservation Telephone Cooperative to provide service in the remote and rural areas in and around the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. The project will bring broadband service to homes, businesses, schools and libraries. In addition, service will be provided to tribal government facilities which provide tribal child support, education assistance, employment assistance, health care and public safety services on the reservation. The area has experienced poverty rates as high as 28 percent and a 40 percent unemployment rate.
To date, $1.067 billion has been invested by USDA through the Recovery Act for 68 broadband projects. Together, the projects will make high speed Internet available to an estimated 529,000 households and 96,000 rural business and public facilities across 31 states, one territory and 17 tribal lands and predominantly Alaska Native regions. Many of the areas to be served are extremely remote, sparsely populated and in some cases not connected by roads. Secretary Vilsack and other cabinet officials visited some of the communities that will receive broadband Internet access during a "Rural Tour" last year. Funding is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan, grant or loan/grant agreement.
President Obama signed The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 into law on Feb. 17, 2009. It is designed to jumpstart the nation's economy, create or save millions of jobs, and help to bridge the digital divide necessary to addressing long-neglected challenges so our country can thrive in the 21st century. The Act includes measures to modernize our nation's infrastructure, enhance energy independence, expand educational opportunities, preserve and improve affordable health care, provide tax relief, and protect those in greatest need.
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