Friday, May 08, 2020

Cong. Lucas joins US, OK Ag Secretaries in announcing $71M for rural broadband in Oklahoma


Lucas Joins USDA, Secretary Blayne Arthur Announcing $71 Million for Rural Broadband in Oklahoma

Cheyenne, OK (May 7, 2020) – This morning, Congressman Frank Lucas (OK-03) joined United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue and Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Blayne Arthur announcing the investment of $71 million in broadband services in unserved and rural areas in Oklahoma. Funded by USDA’s Rural Development Broadband ReConnect Program, the project will build over 800 miles of fiber to the premises for more than 12,500 households, farms, and businesses.

“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the digital divide between rural and nonrural America. When schools and businesses shut down and residents were asked to stay in their homes, many Americans were left scrambling to adjust to their new largely virtual world. This proved especially challenging for rural America, where barely two-thirds of households have access to broadband Internet. Over the last two months I have been reminded of the innovative spirit of rural America. Teachers, doctors, and business owners have had to come up with creative solutions to continue their work of supporting their communities in the face of this vast technical challenge. Programs like ReConnect are desperately needed, now more than ever,” said Congressman Lucas.


Lucas continued, “It is my hope that the funding announced today will build upon the success of the previous round of ReConnect funding, some of which is already being used to deploy high speed networks in Oklahoma. As our nation’s economy becomes more and more reliant on connectivity, our rural communities can no longer afford to be disconnected. As Ranking Member of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee, I have prioritized expanding opportunities for STEM education and teacher training in rural areas. However, many of the resources these initiatives rely on require a stable, high-speed internet connection. From Main Street to the classroom to the doctor’s office, broadband will continue to play a role in our daily lives.”

Joining Secretary Sonny Perdue and Congressman Frank Lucas was Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Blayne Arthur.

“Access to broadband is a necessity for the continued advancement of rural Oklahoma - and particularly to production agriculture," said Blayne Arthur, Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture. "I'm thrilled for agriculture producers and families across the state to see the benefits of greater connectivity and the impacts it will bring to all aspects of their lives."

Totah Communications Inc. is receiving an $18.9 million loan and an $18.9 million grant to construct 621 miles of fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) broadband infrastructure. This award will extend broadband availability to 8,155 residents, 20 farms and 15 businesses in Rogers, Nowata, Washington and Osage counties in Oklahoma; and Montgomery and Chautauqua counties Kansas.

KanOkla Shidler LLC is receiving a $15 million loan and a $15 million grant to construct 251 miles of fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) in Osage County, Okla. This project will benefit 2,101 residents, 26 farms and 28 businesses.

Cross Cable Television LLC is receiving a $2.2 million USDA grant to construct a fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) network in Le Flore and McIntosh counties in Oklahoma. This project will benefit 265 residents, 13 farms and six businesses.

Carnegie Telephone Company is receiving a $1.2 million loan to construct fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) infrastructure in the town of Carnegie, Okla., in Caddo County. This project will benefit 926 residents.

Background:

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.

On April 20, 2020, USDA announce the Department has received 172 applications for $1.57 billion in round two of the ReConnect Program. The second round will enable USDA to implement innovative new solutions to rural connectivity by leveraging financial options with our partners and continue the success of the first round of funding. The application window for round two closed April 15.

USDA received 11 round one ReConnect Program applications that are eligible for the $100 million Congress allocated to the program through the CARES Act.

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