WASHINGTON, D.C., Feb. 16, 2023 – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that the Department is investing $63 million to bring high-speed internet access to people living and working in rural areas in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Mississippi. Today’s investments include funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which provides a historic $65 billion to expand reliable, affordable, high-speed internet to all communities across the U.S.
“Investing in high-speed internet is a fundamental part of our partnership with rural communities,” Secretary Vilsack said. “Connecting rural Americans with reliable internet brings new and innovative ideas to the rest of our country. Under the leadership of President Biden and Vice President Harris, USDA is committed to ensuring that the rich tapestry of people living and working in rural areas have every opportunity to succeed – and that people can find those opportunities right at home in their communities.”
"Access to dependable and affordable high-speed internet is vital to rural communities," said State Director Dr. Trina N. George. "Making sure these communities have access to internet service helps close the digital divide and ensure residents in these areas don't get left behind."
The $63 million in loans and grants comes from the third funding round of the ReConnect Program, in which USDA invested a total of $1.7 billion. Since the beginning of the ReConnect program, the Department has invested $3.2 billion to bring high-speed internet access to people in rural communities across the country.
The four projects being funded today are:
- Uplink Internet LLC is receiving a $15 million grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network in Mississippi. This network will connect 2,340 people, 143 farms, 45 businesses and a public school to high-speed internet in Coahoma, Quitman and Tunica counties. It also will serve socially vulnerable communities in these counties, which are supported by the Rural Partners Network, an all-of-government initiative that combines federal, state and local resources to address specific needs in rural and tribal communities across the country.
- McDonough Telephone Cooperative is receiving an $18 million grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network in Illinois. The network will connect 1,583 people, 274 farms and 41 businesses to high-speed internet in Hancock, Henderson, McDonough and Warren counties. The company will make internet access affordable through the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Lifeline and Affordable Connectivity Programs.
- Alpha Enterprises Limited, Inc. is receiving a $19.5 million grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network that will connect 1,023 people, 19 businesses and 10 farms to high-speed internet in Chippewa and Mackinac counties in Michigan. Alpha Enterprises Limited, Inc. will make high-speed internet affordable through the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity and Lifeline programs. The project will serve socially vulnerable communities in Mackinac County.
- Paul Bunyan Rural Telephone Cooperative is receiving a $10 million grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network in Minnesota. The network will connect 3,529 people, 71 businesses, 35 farms and two public schools to high-speed internet in Hubbard, Itasca and St. Louis counties.
Background: ReConnect Program
To be eligible for ReConnect Program funding, an applicant must serve an area that lacks access to service at speeds of 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 with 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.
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