U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the Department is investing $401 million to provide access to high-speed internet for 31,000 rural residents and businesses in 11 states, part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to investing in rural infrastructure and affordable high-speed internet for all. This announcement includes a group of investments from the ReConnect Program, and an award funded through USDA’s Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan and Loan Guarantee program.
The Department will make additional investments for rural high-speed internet later this summer, including ReConnect Program funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which provides a historic $65 billion investment to expand affordable, high-speed internet to all communities across the U.S.
“Connectivity is critical to economic success in rural America,” Vilsack said. “The internet is vital to our growth and continues to act as a catalyst for our prosperity. From the farm to the school, from households to international markets, connectivity drives positive change in our communities. The investments I am announcing today will help 31,000 people and businesses in large and diverse regions across the country access new and critical opportunities. Under the leadership of President Biden and Vice President Harris, USDA knows rural America is America’s backbone, and prosperity here means prosperity for all.”
USDA Rural Development State Director Patricia Dominguez added, “USDA Rural Development is the only federal agency that focuses solely on the needs of rural residents, businesses and communities. That’s why this funding announcement for these broadband and communication projects is so important for underserved communities here in New Mexico.”
USDA is supporting high-speed internet investments in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, North Dakota and Texas through today’s announcement. Several awards will help rural people and businesses on Tribal lands and those in socially vulnerable communities.
The projects announced today here in New Mexico are:
- Continental Divide Electric Cooperative Inc. in Grants, New Mexico is receiving $3,681,000 grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premise (FTTP) network. This network will connect 606 people, eight businesses, 34 farms, and two public schools to high-speed internet in Cibola and McKinley counties. Continental Divide Electric Cooperative Inc. will make high-speed internet affordable by the Federal Communications Commission’s Emergency Broadband Benefit Plan and Affordable Connectivity Plan. This project will serve the Laguna Pueblo, Acoma Pueblo, and Acoma Off-Reservation Trust Land tribal entities and the socially vulnerable communities of Cibola and McKinley counties.
- Eastern New Mexico Rural (E.N.M.R.) Telephone Cooperative will receive a $14,749,747 grant to also deploy a fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) network. This network will connect 41 people, one business, and nine farms to high-speed internet in Chaves, Colfax, De Baca, Guadalupe, Harding, Lincoln, San Miguel, Socorro, Torrance, and Union counties in New Mexico. E.N.M.R. Telephone Cooperative will make high-speed internet affordable by offering price plans to subscribers that match the pricing offered to all other FTTP Cooperative members. All three plans will include free Wi-Fi service. This project will serve the socially vulnerable communities in the following counties: Colfax, De Baca, Guadalupe, San Miguel, and Socorro.
- Peñasco Valley Telecom is receiving $28,927,570 grant to expand its communications network to connect 2,976 people, 50 businesses, 13 farms, and 8 public schools to high-speed internet in Chaves, Eddy, Lincoln, and Otero Counties in New Mexico. This loan will serve the Socially Vulnerable Communities in the counties of Otero and Eddy.
- Tularosa Basin Telephone Company Inc. is receiving a grant of $5,825,102 and a loan of $5,825,102 to provide new high-speed service to 466 people, 28 businesses and 16 farms in Lincoln and Otero counties. The telephone company will make high-speed internet affordable by participating in both the Federal Communication Commission’s Lifeline Program and the Affordable Connectivity Program. The discounts provided by these programs will allow for qualifying households to receive service as low as $4.20 per month. This project will serve the Mescalero Reservation and the socially vulnerable community of Otero.
- Valley Telephone Cooperative that provides telephone service to southeast Arizona and southwest New Mexico is receiving a $44,924000 Telecommunications Infrastructure loan guarantee to provide expanded service to Hidalgo and Luna counties. The money will be used to replace copper wire-based facilities with fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) facilities. A total of 1,317 miles of buried fiber-optic cable will be constructed and 2,755 optical network terminals will be installed along with all the necessary equipment needed to provide the upgraded service. This will result in improved broadband service to provide improved upload and download data rates for every subscriber, and in addition will enhance voice services.
To be eligible for ReConnect Program funding, an applicant must serve an area where high-speed internet service speeds are lower than 100 megabits per second (Mbps) (download) and 20 Mbps (upload). The applicant must also commit to building facilities capable of providing high-speed internet service at speeds of 100 Mbps (download and upload) to every location in its proposed service area.