USDA Rural Utilities Service Administrator John Padalino on Thursday announced funding for both rural electricity and rural broadband projects in several states during his address at a regional meeting of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association in San Antonio, Texas.
Padalino said the USDA' s electricity investments will benefit 23 states.
"These investments will ensure that rural electric infrastructure will continue to meet the electricity needs of rural residents, farmers, and commercial and industrial customers," Padalino said. The funding includes investments in smart grid technologies that modernize the national electric system.
In addition, the $960 million in USDA loan guarantees will help build 3,587 miles of line, benefit approximately 17,000 rural residential and business customers, and make other system improvements.
The announcement brings the total invested in smart grid technologies nationwide during 2013 to $152 million.
USDA's Padalino also announced14 awards for projects to bring broadband to unserved rural communities. USDA is providing $20.3 million in grants through the Community Connect Grant program.
These are the first awards made under the Community Connect program's new guidelines that now allow applicants to fund broadband infrastructure for more than one community, and raise the minimum required speed. Projects funded must deliver broadband at five megabits per second (Mbps).
Among the recipients are $3 million awards to two locations in North Dakota, where fiber networks will be installed; several nearly $1 million awards to an Oklahoma telephone company to bring businesses and residential areas higher internet speeds and discounted services to low-income areas; and establishment of a community center in Tennessee that will provide free broadband services to residents for up to two years.
Other projects are located in Texas, Nevada, Kentucky, South Carolina and Alaska.
For more on the electric projects, click here.