USDA Official Announces Investments in Rural Public Television Stations

Tim McNeilly
Release Date
Jan 28, 2014

USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Patrice Kunesh today announced investments in rural telecommunications infrastructure and equipment to expand access to education and economic development for rural residents. Kunesh made the announcement on Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s behalf during a visit to Alaska.

“These investments will help public television stations serving substantially rural communities make the transition to digital broadcasts,” Kunesh said. “This newer, digital technology will give rural Alaskans more access to advanced teaching resources. It also will help them in their career goals as well as help expand their local economies.”

USDA Rural Development is awarding grants through the Public Television Digital Transition Grant program. Kunesh announced six grants totaling more than $2.5 million.

In Kentucky, the Kentucky Authority for Educational Television will receive $357,700 – To replace 20 analog microwave radios with digital radios for stations WKSO (Somerset), WKMR (Morehead), WKHA (Hazard) and WKPI (Pikesville). Upgrading this equipment will enable residents in these rural, low-income areas to get access to KET’s educational services.

“Enhancement of access to educationally-focused programming is a key component for a greater quality of life for many residents in eastern Kentucky,” said Thomas G. Fern, state director for USDA Rural Development operations in Kentucky. “The funding announced today is good news for the region.”

While the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) required all television broadcasters to have converted their transmitters to broadcast digital signals by June 12, 2009, many rural stations have yet to complete a full digital transition of their stations across all equipment, such as studio production and master control equipment. Many stations rely on translators (repeaters to expand the broadcast range) to reach the most remote communities, and the 2009 FCC deadline did not apply to these.

Public Television Digital Transition grants may be used to acquire and install facilities and software necessary for the transition. The grants also may be used for associated engineering and environmental studies. For more information, visit:

Funding for each grant is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the grant agreement.

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. USDA’s investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values.