FLANDREAU, S.D. – On Dec. 12, U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development South Dakota State Director Julie Gross announced USDA has invested $9.5 million in high-speed broadband infrastructure that will create or improve e-Connectivity for more than 1,750 homes in rural South Dakota. This is one of many funding announcements in the first round of USDA’s ReConnect Pilot Program investments.
“Reliable, high-speed broadband internet e-Connectivity is essential to increasing access to specialized health care and education, connecting with friends and family, building or starting a business, or increasing productivity at your agricultural operation,” Gross said. “Under the leadership of President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Perdue, USDA is committed to being a strong partner in deploying this essential infrastructure in rural communities, because when rural America thrives, all of America thrives.”
Valley Telecommunications Cooperative will use $9.5 million in ReConnect grant funding to deploy a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network in Brookings, Kingsbury and Moody counties in South Dakota. This investment is anticipated to reach 1,750 rural households, 27 farms, 17 businesses and one critical community facility.
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.