U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the Department is providing $759 million to bring high-speed internet access to people living and working across 24 states, Puerto Rico, Guam and Palau. 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.
“People living in rural towns across the nation need high-speed internet to run their businesses, go to school and connect with their loved ones,” Vilsack said. “USDA partners with small towns, local utilities and cooperatives, and private companies to increase access to high-speed internet so people in rural America have the opportunity to build brighter futures. Under the leadership of President Biden and Vice President Harris, USDA is committed to making sure that people, no matter where they live, have access to high-speed internet. That’s how you grow the economy – not just in rural communities, but across the nation.”
The $759 million in loans and grants comes from the third funding round of the ReConnect Program. As part of today’s announcement, the Eastern Slope Rural Telephone Association (ESTRA) in Hugo, Colorado is receiving an $18.7 million grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network connecting thousands of people, 898 farms, 110 businesses and 17 educational facilities to high-speed internet in Adams, Arapahoe, Cheyenne, Crowley, Elbert, Kiowa, Kit Carson, Lincoln and Washington counties. The company will make high-speed internet affordable by participating in the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program.
“For too long, too many rural communities have struggled with the proper access to the digital economy. This funding is vital to the success of our rural communities and the award today to will be a game-changer for residents in Eastern Colorado. In my visits to these counties, there is an enthusiasm and push to leverage resources which will enhance the progress of the community and local economy. This high-speed connectivity provided by this project will drive that positive change in our rural communities and serve as a catalyst for rural prosperity,” said Armando Valdez, USDA Rural Development State Director for Colorado.
USDA is making 49 awards and many of the awards will help rural people and businesses on Tribal lands. In 2022, the Department has announced $1.6 billion from the third round of ReConnect funding.
Under the Biden-Harris Administration, 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 in Colorado, visit www.rd.usda.gov/co.