USDA awards more funds for broadband service delivery

The award phase of broadband stimulus program ended last year, but the US Department of Agriculture (UDSDA) is still handing out money for broadband networks. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack yesterday announced that 18 applicants will receive more than $103 million in funding for 23 projects to provide broadband services to unserved and underserved rural communities.

The award phase of broadband stimulus program ended last year, but the US Department of Agriculture (UDSDA) is still handing out money for broadband networks. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack yesterday announced that 18 applicants will receive more than $103 million in funding for 23 projects to provide broadband services to unserved and underserved rural communities. The funding includes 18 grants and 5 loans.

The projects represent a mix of access technologies, from fiber to wireless. For example, the Vernon Telephone Cooperative of Westby, WI, will receive a loan of $24 million to build a fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) network in areas outside the town. Vernon also plans to make other system improvements in several area exchanges.

The grants are part of the Community Connect program, which funds 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.

Several service providers received multiple grants through the Community Connect program yesterday. Cable operator Crystal Broadband topped the list with five grants, followed by Wichita Online with three and Nexus Systems and Plateau Wireless, each with two.

USDA says funding for all loans and grants is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan or grant agreement.

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