USDA Announces Funding for Rural Broadband Projects

Michael Dann
Release Date
Jul 24, 2015

$74.8 Million in Telecom Loans and $11 Million in Community Connect Grants will Increase Access for Rural Americans in Seven States to include Montana

BOZEMAN, Mont., July 24, 2015 - Rural Development Acting State Director Janelle Gustafson, announced that $29.95 million of $85.8 million in loan funds to strengthen access to high speed broadband for rural America is coming to Montana.

Triangle Telephone Cooperative Association in Havre, MT, will receive the $29.5 million loan and along with more than $36.3 million of Triangle Telephone’s own funds, will convert the lines from copper to fiber in Chouteau, Fergus and Hill counties. The more than $66.25 million in funds represents but a fraction of the investments being made in the continuing effort to bring fiber to every home in Montana. Of the 16 counties served by Triangle Telephone, Blaine, Liberty, Meagher and Phillips counties have all been upgraded to fiber lines.

"These investments by Triangle Telephone provide a real benefit to our agricultural producers on the Hi-Line,” said Gustafson. “Access to global markets and real-time commodity prices allows them to compete with producers anywhere, and put Montana-grown food on the world’s table. USDA Rural Development is proud to be a part of that.”

Below is a summary of the Telecommunication Loans and Community Connect Grants.

Telecommunications Loans:

  • In Montana, Triangle Telephone Cooperative Association will use a $29.95 million loan to upgrade their system with fiber to supply greater bandwidth to increase speed and the quality of service for their rural Montana subscribers.
  • In Minnesota, a $12.63 million loan to Garden Valley Telephone will include fiber and electronics upgrades to improve the system for rural subscribers. Consolidated Telephone will use a $12.27 million loan to provide greater bandwidth to subscribers, allowing delivery of enhanced services with network upgrades, infrastructure additions and add a new fiber ring.
  • South Carolina's FTC Communications will use a $12.38 million loan to upgrade their wireless telecommunications network to 4G/LTE (Long-Term Evolution), meeting growing demand for reliable, higher speed services.
  • In Wisconsin, LaValle Telephone Cooperative will use $7.61 million to deploy fiber and replace a switch to provide rural subscribers with improved services, including voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and the flexibility to connect to Gigabit Ethernet and IP interfaces.

Community Connect Grants:

  • In Alaska, the Arctic Slope Telephone Association Cooperative, Inc. will receive a $1.4 million grant to provide Point Hope subscribers with high-speed internet service and prepare the network for an undersea fiber connection currently planned for construction within the next two years.
  • Minnesota's Northeast Service Cooperative (NESC) will receive two $3 million grants for two projects to provide broadband service to subscribers on the Fond du Lac Reservation. NESC will partner with the Fond du Lac Band of Superior Chippewa.
  • Oklahoma's @Link Services will receive a grant of nearly $1.5 million to provide high-speed broadband to homes, businesses and critical community facilities in parts of Seminole County.
  • Virginia's Scott County Telephone Cooperative will receive $2.1 million to build a broadband network with one gigabyte of bandwidth for 540 locations in Dickenson County. This project is expected to benefit Edwards Ridge and the surrounding area by promoting economic development through improved broadband access.

Since 2009, USDA has awarded 74 Community Connect grants totaling more than $77 million to build broadband projects in rural areas that previously did not have broadband service.

The Telecommunications Loan and Community Connect Grant programs are an important part of USDA's broadband efforts. Since 2009, USDA has brought new or improved broadband access to more than 1.5 million households, businesses and community education, and public safety facilities. USDA's broadband efforts are part of President Obama's continued efforts to expand high speed broadband to all Americans. Since the President took office, the private and public sectors have invested more than $260 billion into new broadband infrastructure, and three in four Americans now use broadband at home. Thanks to smart spectrum policies and world-leading technology, fast 4G wireless broadband is now available to over 98 percent of Americans.

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.