RUS adds $410.7M in loans to fund rural broadband projects

Just as the USDA's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) and the Commerce Department tighten their grips on broadband stimulus funding awards--revoking $80 million in funding in Louisiana and ordering an investigation in North Florida--the RUS is making available $410.7 million in broadband loans.

The agency said that the loans will be divvied up amongst 15 states to conduct a number of broadband infrastructure upgrade projects.

"Today's funding will provide residents of these rural communities with high speed Internet connections to improve healthcare and educational opportunities and connect to global markets," said Tom Vilsack, Agriculture Secretary, in a statement. "In addition to providing much needed services to rural businesses and residents, these investments will increase jobs, not just in the near term, but through expanded opportunities in rural areas."

Among the 22 projects initially slated to receive funds is Kansas-based S&T Telephone Cooperative Association's move to implement a Fiber to the Home (FTTH) design that will offer 10-20 Mbps speeds and eventually IPTV. In Minnesota, the Paul Bunyan Rural Telephone Cooperative will use a $19.7 million loan to extend its existing Fiber-To-The-Home (FTTH) network to serve rural communities in North Central Minnesota.

Although the loans are positive moves to expand broadband in harder to reach areas, the recent issues that have been seen in Florida and Louisiana, along with Open Range's recent bankruptcy, means newly funded projects will face greater scrutiny from the House Energy and Commerce committee, which previously launched an investigation of RUS oversight of broadband stimulus funds.

For more:
- see the release

Related articles:
Windstream's $38M Fla. broadband stimulus project gets underway
Louisiana's pleas to reinstate $80M broadband grant fall on deaf ears
North Florida's broadband initiative comes under government fire
University of Wisconsin's broadband project clears legal challenge

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