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Federal government pledges $401 million to improve internet speed and access in rural America

The federal government pledges $401 million in grants and loans to extend the reach and improve internet speeds for rural residents, tribes and businesses in remote areas in 11 states, from Alaska to Arkansas .

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters on Wednesday, ahead of Thursday’s announcement, that farmers, shop owners, schoolchildren and people wanting telehealth medical exams will benefit from the ReConnect and Telecommunications programs. Infrastructure Loan and Loan Guarantee.

“Connectivity is critical to the economic success of rural America,” Vilsack said in a statement tallying the number of people who could be helped at around 31,000 in states also including Arizona, California, Colorado, idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada and North Dakota. and Texas.

The statement said the Department of Agriculture plans more spending on high-speed internet in the coming weeks as part of a $65 billion Biden administration plan to expand high-speed internet. affordable to all communities in the United States.

U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto joined Vilsack and White House infrastructure coordinator Mitch Landrieu in highlighting the effect grants and loans are expected to have on the northern Nevada community of Lovelock, which is home to fewer 2,000 people, and the Indian settlement of Lovelock. .

“There’s a need for this connectivity on so many levels,” Cortez Masto said, “that it brings telehealth, telemedicine, e-learning, workforce development. A connection is so important to so many Nevadans.

Internet service provider Uprise LLC will receive more than $27 million to connect nearly 4,900 people, 130 businesses, 22 farms and seven public schools in Lovelock and surrounding Pershing County, officials said.

Masto, a Democrat seeking re-election in November, said federal funds would provide eligible Nevada residents with $30 a month off their internet bill and up to $100 for a computer.

Elsewhere, Midvale Telephone Co. will receive $10.6 million to bring high-speed fiber-optic internet to people, businesses and farms in four central Idaho counties – Elmore, Blaine, Custer and Boise – and of five southeastern Arizona counties: Gila, Graham, Pinal, Cochise, and Pima.

The Arkansas Telephone Co. will receive $12 million to connect nearly 1,000 people, 10 businesses and 145 farms to high-speed Internet in Searcy and Van Buren counties, with low-cost starter packages with voice and voice/ data.

Alaska Power & Telephone, Unicom Inc. and Cordova Telephone Cooperative together are expected to receive nearly $55.4 million to connect nearly 3,300 people, 118 businesses and seven schools in remote areas with a fiber optic network.

In New Mexico, Continental Divide Electric Cooperative and ENMP Telephone Cooperative are set to receive combined grants of $18 million to install affordable fiber networks, and Penasco Valley Telephone Cooperative will receive a loan of nearly $29 million to connect ” socially vulnerable communities” in Chaves, Eddy, Lincoln and Otero Counties.

Vilsack said the programs will particularly help residents of what he called “persistently poor counties,” where he says most have broadband access but about one in three lack the networks to broadband required for telemedicine and distance learning.

He said the aim was “to do what is necessary to ensure that every rural resident, regardless of postcode, has access to reliable and affordable high-speed internet”.

Copyright 2022 Associated Press. All rights reserved.