USDA Unveils New Resource for Tracking Funding Applications

Randy Sukow


The U.S. Department of Agriculture has opened a Public Notice Filings web site to allow the public to learn more about applications to the Electric Infrastructure Loan & Loan Guarantee Program. Entries on the site provide the names of rural electric cooperatives seeking funding, a short description of the technology project and information on how to file public responses. Co-ops may apply loans to combination smart-grid/broadband projects.

“The new webpage also will list the proposed broadband service areas,” according to a USDA press release yesterday. “The funds must be used in areas without broadband speeds of at least 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream for both mobile and fixed service.” The rules of the Electric Infrastructure program call for “up to 10 percent” of the funding to go toward broadband service.

The first two cooperatives currently appearing on the site are Kit Carson Electric Cooperative in New Mexico and United Electric Cooperative Services in Texas. Kit Carson seeks a $7.5 million load for a fiber optic communications network. “The drops will be used for smart grid applications such as smart meter reading and backhaul, SCADA, real time monitoring, and smart switched and smart devices at the home and in the system. The Borrower will be the retail provider of the broadband services,” according to the USDA Public Notice.

United seeks more than $300 million to support a similar fiber/smart grid project with a 3,584-mile network that will cover 16 counties. The description specifies that NRTC is designing the communications network that “will be able to fully support AMI projects, inter-office LAN connectivity, future wireless 5G deployment, carrier-grade ethernet product solutions, and other smart grid technologies, as well as fully support the proposed broadband service delivery and smart-grid applications to both residential and commercial members.”

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