Many of us take access to modern electronic and technological services for granted. But for businesses in Rural America, the lack of high-speed internet connections can make a difference between success and layoffs.
In 2009, Highland Telephone Cooperative (HTC) began pursuing federal funds available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Obtaining the funds would allow HTC to provide state-of-the-art broadband service over Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) in 100 percent of HTC’s Proposed Funded Service Area. In areas with high unemployment and low college graduation rates, fiber has the ability to improve the quality of life for these regions by providing greater opportunities for education, offering improved health care, increasing efficiency in government services and making the area more attractive for economic development.
USDA Rural Development awarded HTC with a low-interest infrastructure loan of $16,622,291 and a grant of $49,866,871. This investment was used to deploy a Fiber-to-the-Premises, wireline fiber-optic cable network, configured in Passive Optical Network architecture and is able to support speeds in excess of 20 Gigabits per second. This means high speed internet access to roughly 18,000 homes and 1,830 businesses in Morgan and Scott Counties, Tenn. as well as parts of McCreary County, Ky. And, more than 200 new jobs were created during the process.
With the project’s recent completion, the rural communities in HTC’s service area can now compete on a level playing field to attract new businesses, business owners have expanded the market for their products, greater learning opportunities are available to students, and improved healthcare is provided by medical professionals. Customers, such as Cheryl Cribbet, say it best.
USDA Rural Development invests in jobs, businesses, community infrastructure, homeownership and affordable rental housing in rural communities. Last year Rural Development assisted more than 864,000 Tennessee families and businesses with more than $655 million in financial assistance through affordable loans, loan guarantees and grants. To learn more about Rural Development programs available in Tennessee visit www.rd.usda.gov/TN.