The USDA is awarding $190.5 million in grants and loans to make broadband and other advanced communications infrastructure improvements in rural areas. The awards follow a series of recent funding boosts USDA has announced in an effort to support rural broadband.
USDA is providing assistance through the Community Connect Grant program, the Public Television Digital Transition Grant program and the Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan program.
Community Connect grants establish broadband service in rural areas to boost economic growth and offer educational, health care, social and public safety benefits. Public television grants help public television stations serving rural areas acquire the equipment they need to transition from analog to digital broadcasts. Telecommunications infrastructure loans help maintain, upgrade or expand rural telecommunications networks.
The awards will go to 25 projects in 19 states, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Funding is contingent upon the recipients meeting the terms of their grant or loan agreements.
In Arkansas, Arkwest Communications is receiving a $24 million telecommunications loan to provide voice, broadband, and internet TV service to nearly 4,000 customers and to make other system improvements.
Nexus Systems, in Monroe, La., is receiving a $2.5 million Community Connect grant to provide high-speed broadband in the Powhatan, La., area. Powhatan is sparsely populated, economically distressed and considered a persistent poverty area. USDA is targeting assistance to the region through its StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity initiative.
Public television broadcasters serving the U.S. Virgin Islands will use a $750,000 USDA grant to replace analog mobile production and satellite equipment with a digital high-definition video recorder. Congress reauthorized the public television grant program in the 2014 Farm Bill.