Sunday, November 15, 2009

USDA Secretary Vilsack Announces $13.4 Million in Community Connect Broadband Grants 11/15/09 Boston - U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced on Friday, November 13, the selection of 22 projects in 10 states to receive $13.4 million in broadband community connect grant funds.

The Broadband Community Connect fund, administered by the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been funded by congressional appropriations in recent incarnations of the Farm Bill. The Broadband Community Connect program is not funded by the Recovery Act (ARRA), which also directs RUS to administer the USDA's portion of the total $7.2 billion broadband stimulus program.

"The Obama Administration recognizes that modern technology is critical to the expansion of business, education, and health care services in rural areas and the competitiveness of the nation's small towns and rural communities," Vilsack said in a USDA press release.

"The President and USDA are committed to bringing broadband services to communities, including isolated ones, so rural residents have access to quality economic, social and educational opportunities."

USDA Rural Development's Community Connect program provides financial assistance to furnish broadband service in unserved, often isolated, rural communities. The grants are used to establish broadband service for critical facilities such as fire or police stations, while also providing service to residents and businesses.

The project must also include a community center that provides community residents with free broadband service for the first two years.
For example, the Yurok Tribe, located on a reservation along the northwest coast of California has been selected to receive a $564,000 grant to provide wireless broadband services to the Yurok Reservation.

A community center will be refurbished to provide free Internet access to tribal residents, enabling them to participate in online education and training programs. Free Internet access will also be provided to the tribal police and volunteer fire departments.

Nexus Systems, Inc. was selected to receive a $924,308 grant to provide wireless broadband services to Enterprise, La. The volunteer fire department and the community center will receive free broadband service for two years. Nexus Systems will also provide the community with web-based services such as web hosting and video conferencing services for public meetings.

In 2006, Alaska Power & Telephone Company received a $1,031,133 grant to establish a wireless broadband system in the Native community of Kasaan, funded by the Community Connect Program. Providing service to the remote, Southeast Alaska community required the construction of an antenna system on a mountaintop. The grant provided laptop computers and video conferencing services to the community center. A server was installed so local residents could store personal files.

Prior to USDA's funding, state's the Department's press release, the community was served by a satellite link that severely limited telecommunications service. The new wireless service has improved connectivity and attracted cellular telephone companies who are putting in infrastructure for more dependable mobile telephone service.

An August 2009 USDA Economic Research Service report supports the idea that "investment in broadband Internet access leads to a more competitive economy."

The report, notes that rural communities with broadband Internet access had greater economic growth than communities without it. The study also finds that broadband use fosters community involvement, enhances the provision of services such as health and education and expands household income opportunities.

The following is a complete list of 2009 Community Connect broadband grant recipients. Funding of each recipient is contingent upon the recipient meeting the conditions of the grant agreement. (Recipient communities in parentheses)

Arkansas: Buford Communications I, LP dba Alliance Communications Network - $681,070 (Rondo) Buford Communications I, LP dba Alliance Communications Network - $735,020 (Aubrey) Buford Communications I, LP dba Alliance Communications Network - $667,120 (LaGrange)

ORCA Broadband Inc. - $550,950 (Hornbrook) Yurok Tribe - $564,000 (Klamath) Round Valley Indian Tribes of the Round Valley Indian Reservation - $474,886 (Covelo) Colorado: PC Telcorp, Inc. - $402,666 (Sedgwick)

Pend Oreille Valley Network, Inc. - $834,164 (Clark Fork)

Louisiana: Nexus Systems, Inc. - $924,308 (Enterprise) Missouri: Turkeyfoot Construction, LLC, dba Lake Communications - $471,905 (Brownington) New Mexico: Agavue, LLC - $550,950 (Manzano) Agavue, LLC - $550,950 (Los Cerrillos)

Oklahoma: @Link Services, LLC - $535,998 (Shamrock) @Link Services, LLC - $577,618 (Kildare) 3 Brothers Networks LLC - $223,417 (Marble City) Wichita Online, Inc. - $597,000 (Cooperton) Wichita Online, Inc. - $498,500 (Yeager) Wichita Online, Inc. - $498,500 (Clearview)

281 Communications Corporation, Inc. - $601,736 (Lometa)

Virginia: Inter Mountain Cable, Inc. - $997,015 (Hurley) The Wired Road Authority - $837,453 (Grant) Techcore Consultants II, dba Almega Cable - $610,300 (Carbo)

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