WASHINGTON, July 27, 2020 – The Trump Administration today announced that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing more than $3 million to provide broadband service in unserved and underserved rural areas in North Carolina. This investment is part of the $100 million in grant funding made available for the ReConnect Pilot Program through the CARES Act.
“The need for rural broadband has never been more apparent than it is now – as our nation manages the coronavirus national emergency. Access to telehealth services, remote learning for school children, and remote business operations all require access to broadband,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “I am so proud of our rural communities who have been working day in and day out, just like they always do, producing the food and fiber America depends on. We need them more than ever during these trying times, and expanding access to this critical infrastructure will help ensure rural America prospers for years to come.”
In rural North Carolina, French Broad Electric Membership Corporation will use a $3.2 million grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) network to connect 4,056 people, 189 farms, 64 businesses and two fire stations to high-speed broadband internet in Madison County.
USDA received 11 Round Two ReConnect Program applications that are eligible for the $100 million Congress allocated to the program through the CARES Act. More investments made possible with these resources will be announced in the coming weeks.
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.
On April 20, 2020, USDA announced the Department has received 172 applications for $1.57 billion in Round Two of the ReConnect Program. The second round will enable USDA to implement innovative new solutions to rural connectivity by leveraging financial options with our partners and continuing the success of the first round of funding. The application window for round two closed on April 15.
In Round One of the ReConnect Program, USDA invested $744 million to bring high-speed broadband e-Connectivity to approximately 162,000 households, 22,000 rural small businesses and farms, and more than 500 health care centers, educational facilities and critical community facilities located in 34 states. To learn more about individual investments, read USDA’s Broadband ReConnect Program report (PDF, 4 MB).
To learn more about ReConnect Program eligibility, technical assistance and recent announcements, visit www.usda.gov/reconnect.
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.