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NRTC Members Pick Up $95 Million in USDA Support

Randy Sukow / Oct 8, 2019

Eleven NRTC members are scheduled to receive more than $95 million in grants and loans to build rural broadband facilities, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced yesterday. The awards are through three different existing USDA programs – the Community Connect Grant Program, the Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan Program and the Rural Broadband Access Loan and Loan Guarantee Program. In total, USDA announced funding for 20 projects (PDF) in 14 states for $152 million.

One of the larger loans on the list is for Logan Telephone in Kentucky which plans to upgrade an existing fiber-to-the home service in the southwest portion of the state. “The system will enable families, educators and businesses to access higher-speed broadband internet. More than 5,300 residential and business customers will benefit,” according to a USDA press release.

Three award winners will receive the top grant size of $3 million, including Scott County Telephone in Virginia. It plans to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) network to an area that currently receives internet speeds below 10 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream. “The proposed project upgrade will provide 592 customers a more robust broadband infrastructure with greater reliability and higher networking speeds of up to 1 Gbps to each location,” USDA said.

Most of the loans and grants are going to rural telcos and independent ISPs. However, a rural electric, Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative in Minnesota also made the list. It plans to use its $1.9 million grant to build an FTTP network delivering up to 1 Gbps to 235 sites, including households on Ojibwe tribal lands.

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