Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that rural telecommunications companies have been selected to receive nearly $192 million in loans for projects that will deliver broadband services to rural customers across eight states. These funds represent the latest investment from The Department of Agriculture’s Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan Program and will add thousands of miles of cable to the telecommunications grid in rural America. The announcement was made by Rural Utilities Service Administrator Jonathan Adelstein on Vilsack’s behalf at the summer meeting of the Organization for the Promotion and Advancement of Small Telecommunication Companies in Minneapolis.
“A significant portion of America still does not have adequate broadband for job and economic development activities,” Vilsack said. “Working with our partners, including cooperatives and the telecommunications industry, USDA delivers broadband to rural areas, creating jobs and providing critical financial, educational and health care services. We’ve made a good start, but it is clear that the work of the Obama Administration and USDA is far from done.”
Administered by USDA Rural Development’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS), this financing is part of the $690 million investment during fiscal year 2011 and is in addition to the $3.5 billion in broadband funding RUS awarded for projects under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The telecommunications infrastructure program funds facilities and equipment to upgrade, expand, maintain and replace rural telecommunications networks.
Projects announced today include a $70 million loan to 3 Rivers Telephone Cooperative, Inc. (3 Rivers) in Fairfield, Montana to install almost 1,700 miles of buried cable, construct buildings, and install electronic equipment to upgrade 10 exchanges. The deployment of this equipment will make upgraded broadband services available to approximately 4,700 households, 500 businesses, and 82 critical community organizations, such as public safety departments. 3 Rivers provides telecommunications services to subscribers over nearly 17,000 square miles of Montana.
In Oregon, Molalla Telephone Company has been selected to receive a $22.5 million loan to expand a Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband system to approximately