USDA Invests $18.88 Million in Rural Broadband for Alaskan Families
|CToday, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Alaska State Director for Rural Development Jerry Ward announced USDA has invested $18.88 million in high-speed broadband infrastructure that will create or improve rural e-Connectivity for nearly 270 rural households in Yakutat. This is one of many funding announcements in the first round of USDA’s ReConnect Pilot Program investments.|
“Geographic isolation should no longer be a barrier to economic prosperity, especially here in Alaska,” Ward said. “With ReConnect, we are bridging the so-called ‘digital divide’ and bringing modern communications to rural Alaskan communities like Yakutat. Under the leadership of President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, USDA is committed to being a strong partner to rural communities in deploying this critical infrastructure, because we know when rural America thrives, all of America thrives.”
Nathan Moulton, Executive Director of Yakutat Tlingit Tribe, added “The Yakutat Tlingit Tribe and our members are excited to work with Cordova Telecom to bring high-speed broadband to Yakutat. The USDA grant investment in Yakutat will positively impact lives and opportunities for everyone in our community.”
The project, dubbed NICEY (New Internet Communications for Everyone in Yakutat), will deliver broadband internet service to all 662 year-round residents and businesses in Yakutat via fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) connections. Yakutat will be connected to Cordova’s submarine fiber optics via a new microwave middle-mile network spanning 230 miles between the two communities.
In March 2018, Congress provided $600 million to USDA to expand broadband infrastructure and services in rural America. On Dec. 13, 2018, Secretary 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. 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 percent loan, 100 percent grant, and loan-grant combinations. 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 as connection speeds of less than 10 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 1 Mbps upload.
In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key recommendation of the task force. To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB). In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view the Rural Prosperity infographic (PDF, 190 KB).
USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.