RALEIGH, N.C.- Sept. 22, 2022 – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the Department is awarding a $24.6 million grant to Focus Broadband to provide high-speed internet access for rural residents and businesses in North Carolina.
The funding is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to investing in rural infrastructure and providing reliable, affordable, high-speed internet for all. USDA is making the investment through the third funding round of the ReConnect Program.
“President Biden’s commitment to high-speed internet in rural communities is foundational to ensuring that the nation’s economy continues to expand from the bottom up and the middle out,” Vilsack said. “High-speed internet will improve the rural economy. It will help rural businesses grow and get access to new markets. It will help rural residents get access to more and better health care and educational opportunities. USDA knows rural America is America’s backbone, and prosperity here means prosperity for all.”
Focus Broadband, formerly Atlantic Telephone Membership Corporation, will deploy a fiber-to-the-home network. This network will connect 13,972 people, 198 businesses, 166 farms and 18 public schools to high-speed internet in Robeson and Scotland counties. Focus will make high-speed internet affordable by implementing their Faster Internet for Robeson and Scotland Today (FIRST) program and offering four internet packages. This project will serve the Lumbee state designated tribal statistical area and the socially vulnerable communities of Scotland and Robeson.
“The events of the last two years have shone a light on the need of all Americans to have access to affordable and reliable high-speed internet,” said USDA Rural Development State Director Reginald Speight. “This multi-million dollar investment from the Biden-Harris Administration to Focus Broadband is allowing rural residents of our state to have the ability to take care of their family’s needs and educate their children, in their homes, and not have to go and seek out a wi-fi hot spot. A family choosing to live in the rural parts of our state should not preclude them from affordable services. This is a big win for Rural North Carolina and Focus Broadband!”
The Department will make additional investments for rural high-speed internet in the coming months, including funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which provides a historic $65 billion investment to expand affordable, high-speed internet to all communities across the U.S.
Nationwide USDA is making 32 awards in Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming. Many of the awards will help rural people and businesses on Tribal lands and people in socially vulnerable communities.
USDA has announced $858 million in the third round of ReConnect funding so far and plans to make more investment announcements under this program in the coming weeks.
Today’s announcement follows the Department’s July 28 announcement that it has invested $356 million through the ReConnect Program to help very rural residents and businesses in 11 states gain access to high-speed internet.
Background: ReConnect Program
To be eligible for ReConnect Program funding, an applicant must serve an area where high-speed internet service speeds are lower than 100 megabits per second (Mbps) (download) and 20 Mbps (upload). The applicant must also commit to building facilities capable of providing high-speed internet service at speeds of 100 Mbps (download and upload) to every location in its proposed service area.
Background: Bipartisan Infrastructure Law
President Biden forged consensus and compromise between Democrats, Republicans and Independents to demonstrate our democracy can deliver big wins for the American people. After decades of talk on rebuilding America’s crumbling infrastructure, President Biden delivered the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law – a historic investment in America that will change people’s lives for the better and get America moving again.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides $65 billion to ensure every American has access to affordable, reliable high-speed internet through a historic investment in broadband infrastructure deployment. The legislation also lowers costs for internet service and helps close the digital divide, so that more Americans can take full advantage of the opportunities provided by internet access.
USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities, create jobs and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural, tribal and high-poverty areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.
USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate-smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.
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