Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Thursday announced loans to help finance the construction of broadband networks in rural areas in four states. The agency says it is part of a larger effort to strengthen the rural economy.
"Rural Americans need full access high-speed telecommunications services," Vilsack said. "Broadband allows rural communities to tap into critical health care and social services systems. It also helps even the playing field in education, and gives small-town businesses a chance to compete globally."
Vilsack expects the Administration to continue to fund more projects that improve rural broadband.
The latest announcement offers up $40 million from USDA's Rural Utilities Service that can be used to install fiber networks to improve telecommunications capability. USDA's Telecommunications Loan Program finances infrastructure that enables access to a seamless, nationwide telecommunications network, USDA said.
Projects include: Keystone-Farmers Cooperative Telephone Company, Iowa, will receive a $7.6 million loan to upgrade its plant and complete a Fiber-to-the-Premises network;
Colton Telephone Company, Oregon, will receive a $7.3 million loan to complete an FTTP network to provide enhanced broadband services for its customers; and
Interstate Telecommunications Company, Inc., South Dakota and Minnesota, will receive a $24.9 million loan to upgrade its plant and complete an FTTP network to provide enhanced broadband services for its customers.
USDA has funded 557 projects in 48 states through $6.1 billion in telecommunications loan financing since the beginning of the Obama Administration.
Also during the announcement, Secretary Vilsack noted that today's funding is another reminder of the importance of USDA programs for rural America. He again called for completing a five-year farm bill "as soon as possible" that will focus on growing jobs and the rural economy.