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Virginia to Benefit from USDA Investments in High-Speed Internet for Rural Communities

Richard Jenkins
Release Date

RICHMOND, Va., Aug. 21, 2023 – Thousands of Southwest Virginia residents, farmers and business owners will benefit from today’s announcement of nearly $700 million in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grants and loans to bring reliable, affordable broadband coverage to rural communities in 22 states and the Marshall Islands.

These investments are part of the fourth funding round of the ReConnect Program, which is a key component of the Administration’s Internet for All initiative to bring high-speed connections to every U.S. community by 2030. Uniquely designed to fund difficult projects in remote and unserved areas, this program will soon help provide service to the socially vulnerable communities of Lee and Wise counties and the city of Norton.

The Scott County Telephone Cooperative will receive a $25,000,000 grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network that will offer broadband in rural areas with limited prospects for coverage without this program. The co-op will also participate in the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Lifeline and Affordable Connectivity Programs to bring high-speed internet within the reach of the 17,352 people, 1,018 businesses, 37 farms and 49 educational facilities in the project area.

“Reliable broadband will bring new opportunities to people living in the coalfields region of the state,” said Perry Hickman, USDA Rural Development Virginia State Director. “This connectivity can open the world’s marketplace to rural business owners, help farmers increase production and reduce costs through precision agriculture, and improve rural students’ prospects for success.” 

A 2020 Central Virginia Electric Cooperative project is already making a positive impact on public safety, health care, education and business growth in another part of the state. The co-op used ReConnect funds to build out its fiber network overhead and underground with 850 miles of cable to offer service to residents of Amherst, Albemarle, Appomattox, Buckingham, Campbell, Cumberland, Fluvanna, Greene, Goochland, Louisa, Orange, Powhatan and Prince Edward counties. Their subsidiary Firefly Fiber Broadband now has about 4,200 customers in their project area and is adding more each week.

ReConnect Program applicants must serve a rural area that lacks access to service at speeds of 100 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 20 Mbps upload and commit to building facilities capable of achieving speeds of 100 Mbps (download and upload) in every location in the proposed project area. Awardees must also apply to participate in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) that offers a discount of up to $30 per month toward internet service to qualifying low-income households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal Lands.  

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.

The $667 million total investment also includes projects in Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin and the Marshall Islands.

To learn more about investment resources for rural areas, visit www.rd.usda.gov or contact the Virginia Rural Development state office. Also visit our GovDelivery subscriber page to receive regular USDA Rural Development updates.