Temple, Texas, Aug 23, 2011 -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced yesterday that 18 recipients will receive more than $103 million in funding for 23 projects to provide broadband services to unserved and underserved rural communities.
“Without broadband, rural communities, agricultural producers and business owners face a substantial challenge,” Vilsack said. “These loans and grants will bring the benefits of broadband, including new educational, business and public health and safety opportunities, to residents living in some of the most remote parts of our Nation.”
“Bringing broadband to rural residents provides a gateway to the tools they need to pursue educational opportunities, promote and operate their businesses, and increase their career opportunities,” said Paco Valentin, USDA Rural Development Texas State Director.
In addition to the Community Connect grants, Secretary Vilsack announced $90 million in loan funding for five broadband infrastructure projects. In Texas, the Coleman County Telephone Cooperative has been selected for a $22.5 million loan to construct a Fiber to the Premise (FTTP) system in the cooperatives’ Burkett, Lake Coleman and Santa Anna exchanges. The FTTP system will allow Coleman County Telephone Cooperative to provide state of the art enhanced telecommunications services at affordable rates to current and future subscribers throughout Brown, Coleman, Concho and Runnels counties.
The Community Connect program has been instrumental in providing broadband access to residents in remote areas and low-income communities. Of the Community Connect grants being announced today, seven grants will provide broadband to communities that are plagued by persistent poverty. The infrastructure loans announced today are in addition to $192 million in loans Secretary Vilsack announced on July 27, 2011, through USDA Rural Development’s Telecommunications Infrastructure Program.
The Community Connect program provides grants to rural, economically challenged communities. Funds can be used to construct, acquire or lease facilities to deploy broadband to community facilities such as schools and public safety buildings, as well as residents and businesses in the community. Each project requires a matching contribution and must serve an area where broadband is not available. The grantee must agree to provide local community centers in the selected towns with at least 10 computers which are accessible free for two years. USDA funding for all loans and grants is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan or grant agreement.
In June, President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing the first White House Rural Council, chaired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The White House Rural Council will work throughout government to create policies to promote economic prosperity and a high quality of life in rural communities.
Since taking office, President Obama’s Administration has taken significant steps to improve the lives of rural Americans and has provided broad support for rural communities. The Obama Administration has set goals of modernizing infrastructure by providing broadband access to 10 million Americans, expanding educational opportunities for students in rural areas, and providing affordable health care. In the long term, these unparalleled rural investments will help ensure that America’s rural communities are repopulating, self-sustaining and thriving economically.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an existing portfolio of more than $155 billion in loans and loan guarantees. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.