HALLS, Tenn. (WJHL) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced Friday that the USDA has invested $2,856,167 in high-speed broadband infrastructure to create or improve e-connectivity for 347 rural households in Tennessee.
According to a news release from the USDA, this is the first of many funding announcements in the first round of USDA’s ReConnect Pilot Program investments.
“Our core mission at USDA is to increase rural prosperity through boosting economic opportunity in rural America,” Perdue said in the release. “We know that rural communities need robust, modern infrastructure to thrive, and that includes having access to broadband e-Connectivity. Under the leadership of President Trump, USDA is proud to partner with rural communities to deploy this critical infrastructure, because we know when rural America thrives, all of America thrives.”
Tennessee’s Forked Deer Electric Cooperative will use a ReConnect Program grant to deploy a fiber to the home broadband network capable of simultaneous transmission rates of 100 megabits per second or greater.
The release said that the funded service areas include 347 households and one critical community facility spread over approximately 435 square miles. The project will facilitate more access to services and information for area residents.
In March 2018, Congress provided $600 million to USDA to expand broadband infrastructure and services in rural America.
On December 13, 2018, Perdue announced the rules of the program, called “ReConnect,” including how the loans and grants will be awarded to help build broadband infrastructure in rural America, the release said.
USDA received 146 applications between May 31, 2019, and July 12, 2019, requesting $1.4 billion in funding across all three ReConnect Program funding products: 100% loan, 100% grant, and loan-grant combinations.
The release detailed that USDA is reviewing applications and announcing approved projects on a rolling basis. Additional investments in all three categories will be made in the coming weeks.
These grants, loans and combination funds enable the federal government to partner with the private sector and rural communities to build modern broadband infrastructure in areas with insufficient internet service.
Insufficient service is defined in the release, as connection speeds of less than 10 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload.
USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. For more information, please visit www.rd.usda.gov.