U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the Department is investing more than $40 million to provide access to high-speed internet for rural residents and businesses in California, part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to investing in rural infrastructure and affordable high-speed internet for all. This announcement includes a group of investments from the ReConnect Program, and an award funded through USDA’s Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan and Loan Guarantee program.
“We are honored to announce investments to increase access for high-speed internet in communities across the Central Valley.” said Maria Gallegos-Herrera, USDA Rural Development California State Director. “Many rural communities have historically lacked reliable and affordable internet service. Historic wildfires and the impacts of the pandemic have further worsened these inequities. Today marks a significant step towards addressing these long-standing and recently exacerbated needs in rural communities. While we have more work ahead in meeting these challenges, we celebrate the progress this new round of investments promises in closing the digital divide.”
The Department will make additional investments for rural high-speed internet later this summer, including ReConnect Program 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.
“Connectivity is critical to economic success in rural America,” Vilsack said. “The internet is vital to our growth and continues to act as a catalyst for our prosperity. From the farm to the school, from households to international markets, connectivity drives positive change in our communities. The investments I am announcing today will help 31,000 people and businesses in large and diverse regions across the country access new and critical opportunities. Under the leadership of President Biden and Vice President Harris, USDA knows rural America is America’s backbone, and prosperity here means prosperity for all.”
As part of today’s announcement:
- A loan of more than $28 million is awarded to The Volcano Telephone Company. This Rural Development investment will be used to help the Volcano Telephone Company deploy a fiber-to-the home network. This network will connect 5,191 people, 119 businesses, seven educational facilities, and 15 farms in Alpine, Amador, Calavares, and El Dorado counties.
- More than $12 million was awarded to The Ponderosa Telephone Company. This Rural Development investment will be used to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network. This network will connect 115 people, one business and 26 farms to high-speed internet in Fresno County. The Ponderosa Telephone Company will make high-speed internet affordable by participating in both the Federal Communications Commission's Lifeline Program and the Affordable Connectivity Program, giving the residents a $30 discount, making the lowest package available for $0.70. This project will serve Cold Springs Rancheria.
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 make full use of 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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