USDA Highlights Impact of Recent Recovery Act Broadband Loans and Grants
Projects Designed to Improve the Quality of Rural Life Are Underway Across the Nation
WASHINGTON, June 9, 2010 -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today highlighted the release of a report that details how broadband deployment funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) will improve the quality of life of over half a million rural American households. The report also states that broadband awards announced to date will create about 5,000 immediate and direct jobs.
"The Obama Administration supports the expansion of rural broadband so that all areas of the country have access to the tools necessary to spur economic development and job creation in the 21st century economy," Vilsack said. "These broadband loans and grants, provided through the Recovery Act, are critical to building and revitalizing the economy and infrastructure of rural America."
Vilsack discussed the importance of broadband deployment during last week's Rural Summit in Missouri, saying broadband will create new opportunities for rural prosperity and one of the key pillars of rebuilding and revitalizing rural America. Vilsack also noted that broadband deployment will improve educational opportunities, public safety, improve medical diagnostic services, support business development, farmers and agricultural producers. The report, Connecting Rural America, outlines the projects USDA Rural Development's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) is funding under the first round of awards made under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP).
One award, to Madison Telephone, LLC, a cooperative in Southeast Kansas, will enable broadband service to be extended to residents living in a 200 square mile area. In a letter to Secretary Vilsack, CEO Mary F. Meyer said; "We have been struggling for several years with the need to offer high speed broadband to our subscribers but simply could not afford this type of project…The opportunity of stimulus funding will allow us to provide the technology to our subscribers so they have the necessary broadband speeds to work, research, gain access to markets, weather and personal networking." She said that mapping and staking for the area has been completed and "we hope to have a plow in the ground by Labor Day."
In the first of two scheduled funding rounds, RUS awarded $1.068 billion for 68 broadband projects in 31 states and one territory. Three types of projects received awards:
- Last-mile remote projects, which will provide broadband service to households and other users in rural areas located at least 50 miles from the nearest non-rural area.
- Last-mile non-remote projects, which will provide broadband service to households and other users located less than 50 miles from the nearest non-rural area.
- Middle-mile projects, which will provide necessary "backbone" services such as interoffice transport, backhaul, Internet connectivity, or special access to rural areas.
The projects will bring broadband service to an estimated 529,249 households, 92,754 businesses and 3,332 anchor institutions across more than 172,000 square miles – a geographic area approximately the size of the state of California. Community anchors, such as schools, libraries, health care providers, colleges, and critical community facilities, provide essential services for safety, health, education and well-being for area residents. These projects will also provide services to 19 Tribal lands. A second round of successful applicants will be announced later in the 2010 fiscal year.
USDA Rural Development's Rural Utilities Service received $2.5 billion under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 for the Broadband Initiatives Program. Working in coordination with other Federal agencies, RUS has implemented a program to ensure that BIP funds are distributed quickly, efficiently and as Congress intended. The report provides a summary of the awards made in the first round of funding to advance the Obama Administration's commitment to improving the rural infrastructure and to enact the directives established by Congress.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages more than 40 housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of 6,100 employees located in the nation's capital and 500 state and local offices. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. Rural Development has an existing portfolio of more than $138 billion in loans and loan guarantees.
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