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USDA Partners with Communities to Bring High-Speed Broadband e-Connectivity Infrastructure to Rural Areas

Delane Johnson
Release Date

State Director for Rural Development Bob Chandler today announced that USDA is investing in infrastructure projects in North Carolina to improve e-Connectivity in rural communities.

   According to a 2018 report by the Federal Communications Commission, 80 percent of the 24 million American households who lack reliable, affordable, high-speed internet are in rural areas. USDA’s investments in broadband infrastructure are helping transform rural America, providing innovation and technology to increase economic competitiveness and opportunities.

   USDA is investing $91 million through the Telecommunications Programs. The 19 projects will benefit more than 27,000 businesses and households in Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, North Carolina, North Dakota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia. 

Here are examples of the North Carolina projects in which USDA is investing:

  • The French Broad Electric Membership Corporation is receiving $3,000,000 to bring high-speed internet to the greater Laurel community in Madison County. This area in the northwestern portion of the county includes more than 1,000 homes and businesses and currently has very limited access to high-speed internet service. Having high-speed broadband in this area will help retain residents, stimulate growth and will allow business expansion, creating more jobs and also allow people to work from home. It will provide children additional educational opportunities in a technology-driven system and give the elderly more health care flexibility.

  • Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation is receiving $3,000,000 to construct a high-speed fiber-optic network to all homes and businesses located within the Cherokee County, North Carolina proposed funded service area. This investment will help construct a high-speed, active Ethernet fiber-optic network which will enable Blue Ridge (and its affiliates) to offer voice, video, and data services to the 865 households and seven businesses within the area. The technology will allow for increased opportunities to access economic development, health care, educational, and quality of life resources that high quality communications services can bring to communities. A community center will also be established in a local general store where residents can access computer access terminals and WiFi service, free of charge.

    In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key recommendation of the task force.  

To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB). In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view the Rural Prosperity infographic (PDF, 190 KB).

  USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs 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 areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.