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USDA announces funding to improve rural broadband

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced funding for two rural telecommunications companies that will expand broadband service in rural Nebraska and Montana.

In Nebraska, Hartington Telecommunications Co., Inc, a Rural Utilities Service borrower since 1956, will use a $5.265 million loan to replace copper cable with fiber-to-the-home technology to serve customers with a state-of-the-art telecommunications system. The new system will require replacing rural drops with fiber cables and installing new optical interfaces at each subscriber location. A large number of digital loop carrier sites will be retired or converted into optical nodes, increasing system reliability due to a reduction in grid powered sites. The company has had previous RUS loans totaling more than $8 million.

InterBel Telephone Cooperative, Inc., in Montana, will receive a $20.8 million loan to complete a fiber-to-the-premises network to help meet future growth requirements. United States Department of Agriculture funding is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan agreement.

“These loans will provide the necessary telecommunications infrastructure essential for rural economic development,” Vilsack said. “Broadband offers rural communities greater access to educational, health care, business and social services and opens the door to increased global competition. As part of President (Barack) Obama’s goal to improve infrastructure, we continue to fund projects that expand broadband service in rural areas.”

The funding announcement will provide more than $26 million from USDA’s Rural Utilities Service, a Rural Development agency, to install fiber networks to improve telecommunications services in these areas.

The announcement is one part of the department’s efforts to strengthen the rural economy. Obama’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities, Vilsack said. Under the president’s leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way—strengthening America’s economy, small towns and rural communities. USDA’s investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values. Obama and Vilsack said they are committed to a smarter use of federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, has a portfolio of programs designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.

Date: 5/13/2013



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