FEBRUARY 22, 2010 By Stephen Hardy -- In between the recent broadband stimulus awards the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) has made over the past week (see "Fiber shines again in latest NTIA broadband stimulus announcements"), the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) has handed out a few broadband checks of its own. Like the NTIA, the RUS showed its appreciation of fiber; of the 11 projects that received funding, at least seven will leverage optical technology.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced $227 million in awards February 17. The projects also will benefit from a total of $1.6 million in additional private investment through matching funds. The department received $2.5 billion in funding for such projects through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The projects will be carried out in eight states. The awards included:
- Indiana: The Smithville Telephone Company, Inc. will receive a $37,729,143 loan to provide 3,815 households, 209 businesses, and 12 community anchor institutions with access to broadband service via fiber.
- Iowa: The Southeast Iowa Rural Wireless Broadband network will receive a $3,836,926 loan to provide Internet services to 80 rural communities.
- Kentucky: The Mountain Rural Telephone Cooperative Corp. will receive a $39,843,535 loan and $38,281,044 grant. The funding will provide fiber to Morgan, Menifee, Wolfe, and Elliott counties to support 20-Mbps services.
- Louisiana: Two projects in the state received funds in this latest tranche. The Allen's Cable fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) broadband network will be extended using a $3,584,680 loan and $3,513,697 grant. The funding will extend fiber into rural areas of three South Louisiana Parishes. Also, LBH, LLC will receive a $16,693,439 loan and $16,691,939 grant to expand existing broadband into rural areas around Moss Bluff, Oakdale, and Vinton using fiber.
- Minnesota: The Southwest Minnesota Broadband Group will receive an almost $6.4 million loan and a $6.4 million grant to extend fiber to the Jackson, Lakefield, Windom, Round Lake, Bingham Lake, Brewster, Wilder, Heron Lake, and Okabena communities. This funding, along with an $88,000 private investment, will provide high-speed Internet, voice, and cable television.
- Missouri: A Unionville, MO, FTTP project will receive a $5,140,458 loan and $5,140,458 grant.
- New Mexico: Two projects received funding in this state as well. First, the Western New Mexico Telephone Co. will receive a $11,516,679 grant to provide last-mile wireless broadband services to remote and unserved locations and critical community facilities throughout Western New Mexico. Second, Baca Valley Telephone Company, Inc. will receive a $1,651,000 loan and $1,586,000 grant. The project will expand fiber optics to DSL nodes in rural Northeastern New Mexico, replacing outdated deteriorating copper wire and low bandwidth microwave transport systems in some areas, while providing new connectivity in others.
- Oregon: The Sandy Broadband Infrastructure Project was awarded a $374,548 loan and $374,537 grant improving and expanding wireless Internet service in Sandy.
- Texas: The Southern Texas Broadband Infrastructure Development and Adoption Project received a $40,093,153 loan and $38,520,868 grant to develop broadband infrastructure in 11 unserved and underserved rural communities of the South Texas Plains. Details of the project are scarce, although the carrier involved, Valley Telephone Cooperative Inc., offers FTTH services.
The USDA expects to make additional first-round funding announcements “throughout the current fiscal year.” Applications for Round 2 funding from RUS and the NTIA are now being accepted through March 15, 2010 at 5 p.m. ET.