Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced funding for 28 telephone utilities to build, expand and improve broadband in their rural service territories across 18 states. The announcement was made on the Secretary's behalf by USDA Rural Utilities Service Deputy Administrator Jessica Zufolo during an address at the annual meeting of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners in St. Louis, MO.
"Today's funding will provide residents of these rural communities with high speed internet connections to improve healthcare and educational opportunities and connect to global markets," Vilsack said. "In addition to providing much needed services to rural businesses and residents, these investments will increase jobs, not just in the near term, but through expanded opportunities in rural areas."
For example, in Minnesota, Rural Development Broadband Loan Program funds will be used to extend Paul Bunyan Rural Telephone Cooperative's existing Fiber-To-The-Home (FTTH) network to serve rural communities in North Central Minnesota. This project will offer advanced telecommunications services to over 45,710 households and businesses. Paul Bunyan has been operating since 1952 and has been a telecommunications borrower with the Rural Utilities Service since 1953.
In North Dakota, Rural Development funds will be used to expand Polar Communications Mutual Aid Corporation's Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband system throughout eighteen exchanges. The upgraded system will help meet current and future requirements for delivery of voice, video and high speed data to subscribers. Upon completion of this RUS-funded project, all of Polar's subscribers will be served with broadband via various technologies.
In Indiana, Perry-Spencer Rural Telephone Cooperative Inc., (PSC) provides telecommunications services to 5,711 subscribers over approximately 1,148 square miles. This loan will enable PSC to start the process of designing and building FTTP broadband services across its service area. This investment in broadband technology creates the potential for increased business growth, while providing improved telecommunications, entertainment services, educational services, healthcare, and public safety to rural communities in Indiana.
The following list of awardees will receive $478.6 million in funding, contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the agreement with USDA.
- Eastern Slope Rural Telephone Association, Inc.--$18,725,000 will be used to upgrade the existing fiber-to-the-node (FTTN) network, capable of providing modern broadband services to subscribers in 10 exchanges.
Idaho and Utah
- Albion Telephone Company--$17,075,000 in loan funds will be used to install 453 miles of buried fiber optic cables throughout the proposed FTTP system, providing nearly 60 percent of subscribers with FTTP.
- McNabb Telephone Company--$3,700,000 in loan funds will be used to make system improvements, including constructing new FTTP facilities. A total of 115 miles of buried fiber optic cable will be deployed to improve service to subscribers.
- Shawnee Telephone Company--$30,286,000 in loan funds will be used to construct FTTP facilities, allowing Shawnee to provide voice and data services at speeds of up to 100 Mbps to both residences and businesses.
- McDonough Telephone Cooperative, Inc.--$15,728,000 in funds will be used to upgrade the rural areas with FTTH technology. Approximately 766 miles of buried fiber cable will be deployed to provide over half of the subscribers with access to improved broadband service. McDonough has been serving its rural subscribers for over 60 years.
- Wabash Telephone Cooperative, Inc.--$21,867,000 will be used to install 777 miles of buried fiber optic cables and related equipment throughout the proposed FTTP system. The FTTP system will enhance service to 70 percent of Wabash's subscribers.