One of Donald Trump’s promises during the campaign season last year was he would focus on some of the country’s crumbling infrastructure and beef it up where it may be lacking altogether. Once he was elected it didn’t take long for lawmakers to seize on that promise and propose projects, including many around rural broadband. For example, Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) encouraged the new administration to include broadband deployment as a core component of any infrastructure proposals, and she particularly called out the need for better high-speed access in rural America as a way to level the economic and educational playing field for those areas.
Last week was the White House’s “Infrastructure Week” and to say it was eclipsed by news around former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee would be a vast understatement. However, there were actually moves on the rural broadband front as the USDA announced it is awarding four loans to help provide broadband service in rural portions of California, Illinois, Iowa, and Texas.
“Too many rural areas still lack access to robust, affordable broadband services that can create jobs and boost rural economies,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says. “These broadband infrastructure investments will connect rural communities to a digital future and will help expand access to high-speed internet, health care, educational, and business services in rural communities.”
The $43.6 million announced will reportedly add nearly 1,000 miles of fiber to fund broadband service. That includes a $24.8 million loan to the Central Texas Telephone Cooperative to construct 568 miles of fiber and install equipment upgrades in seven of its 17 exchanges. California’s Ducor Telephone is receiving a $9 million loan to construct 67 miles of fiber and update equipment to improve quality, functionality, and network reliability. In Iowa, the Coon Valley Cooperative Telephone Association will use a $6.5 million loan to construct 216 miles of fiber to improve access to advanced telecommunications services. Illinois’ Viola Home Telephone will use a $3.3 million loan to construct 104 miles of fiber and provide supporting equipment to deliver enhanced telecommunications services to its rural subscribers.