USDA awards $43.6M to expand rural fiber broadband in four states

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The USDA is giving loans to four providers through Rural Development's Telecommunications Program.

USDA is awarding four loans totaling $43.6 million to help drive broadband expansion in rural parts of four states.

The new funding will enable service providers in rural portions of California, Illinois, Iowa and Texas to better deliver broadband services to residents that were often left behind with nothing more than dial-up services.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue recently announced these broadband loans following Infrastructure Week with President Trump in Cincinnati. He met with the White House Infrastructure Council on Friday.

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“These broadband infrastructure investments will connect rural communities to a digital future and will help expand access to high-speed internet, health care, educational and business services in rural communities,” Perdue said in a release.

Four service providers will use parts of the $43.6 million to build out 1,000 miles of fiber and to fund broadband service:

Central Texas Telephone Cooperative: The rural carrier will use $24.8 million to construct 568 miles of fiber and install equipment upgrades in seven of its 17 exchanges.

Ducor Telephone Co.: The California-based telco received a $9 million loan to construct 67 miles of fiber and update equipment to improve quality, functionality and network reliability.

Coon Valley Cooperative Telephone Association: The Iowa-based provider will use a $6.5 million loan to construct 216 miles of fiber to improve access to advanced services.

Viola Home Telephone Co.: The Illinois provider will use a $3.3 million loan to construct 104 miles of fiber cable and provide supporting equipment to deliver enhanced telecommunications services to its rural subscribers.

USDA is providing these loans through Rural Development’s Telecommunications Program, which funds infrastructure and equipment to deliver broadband and distance learning and telemedicine services throughout rural America.

Dedicating funds to drive rural broadband expansion has been an ongoing initiative for USDA. In 2015, the department put forward an additional $85 million in funding dedicated to increasing broadband internet access in seven states.