The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced on Monday a fifth round of grants and loans for 33 new rural broadband projects across 19 states — an investment totaling $714 million.
The funds are being dispersed through the ReConnect program, an application-based funding program that received $2 billion from the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
The ReConnect program’s awards — which are a mix of grants, loans or a combination of both — are meant to expand affordable, reliable high-speed internet to rural communities across the country as part of President Joe Biden’s Investing in America Agenda, which includes legislation passed by Congress in the last several years that has funded several federal broadband programs.
The 33 projects announced Monday add up to about $421 million in grants and approximately $293 million dollars in loans for projects in Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Washington.
The new projects bring the total of broadband initiatives funded by the ReConnect program to 142, connecting more than 314,000 people in rural parts of the country to high-speed internet.
In a call with reporters Monday, White House Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu provided examples of newly funded projects. He said the Decatur Telephone Company in Benton County, Arkansas, will receive a $30 million loan to deploy a fiber network connecting more than 5,000 people, 257 farms, 74 businesses and four educational facilities.
He also said the Seneca Telephone Company’s deployment of a fiber network will connect 6,812 people, 178 businesses, 240 farms and 12 education facilities in Missouri’s McDonald and Newton counties. That project will receive $28 million, and Seneca will also offer free installation of fiber to all residential customers there, Landrieu said.
“This is an exciting opportunity for us,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack added on Monday. “We continue to be committed to doing our work at the USDA to connect folks and looking forward to the additional work that’s going to be done in this administration.”