WASHINGTON, D.C. — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced 14 awards for projects to bring broadband to unserved rural communities. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Utilities Service Administrator John Padalino made the announcement on the Secretary's behalf while addressing a regional meeting of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association in San Antonio.
"Access to broadband is one of the most important investments in rural communities today," Vilsack said. "These awards will help create jobs, and give rural residents greater access to educational, health care and social services."
USDA is providing $20.3 million in grants through the Community Connect Grant program.
For example, in Tennessee, Scott County Telephone Cooperative has been selected to receive a $2.6 million grant to build a network that will provide free broadband service to essential community facilities such as schools and libraries. The Cooperative also will establish a center where local residents will have access to free internet service for two years.
These are the first awards made under the Community Connect program's new guidelines that now allow applicants to fund broadband infrastructure for more than one community, and raise the minimum required speed. Projects funded must deliver broadband at five megabits per second (Mbps).
The following is a list of awardees that will receive USDA funding contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the grant agreement:
- Texhoma Fiber, LLC – $863,000. To provide broadband service to Sunset in southern Montague County and to serve homes around the Lyndon B. Johnson National Grassland area. Residential customers will have access to service with speeds of up to 20 Mbps, and businesses will have service with speeds up to 100 Mbps. The project will also provide a community center with free service for at least two years. Free service will also be provided to critical community facilities for at least two years.
Texhoma Fiber, LLC – $978,000. To provide broadband service to the community of Ringgold. Customers will be able to receive broadband, voice and cable television service. Residential customers will have access to speeds up to 100 Mbps, while speeds up to 1 gigabyte will be available for business customers. Discounted broadband service will be offered to eligible low-income subscribers. The project will provide free broadband service to critical community facilities and a community center for residents for at least two years.
President Obama's plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President's leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America's economy, small towns and rural communities. USDA's investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values.