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Feds: $401 million to bring high-speed internet to rural US

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LAS VEGAS (AP) – The federal government is pledging $401 million in grants and loans to expand coverage and…

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The federal government is pledging $401 million in grants and loans to expand coverage and improve Internet speeds for rural residents, tribes and businesses in remote areas of 11 states from Alaska to Arkansas.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters Wednesday, ahead of Thursday’s announcement, that farmers, store owners, schoolchildren and people who want health screenings over the phone will benefit from the ReConnect and telecommunications infrastructure loan and loan guarantee programs.

“Connectivity is critical to economic success in rural America,” Vilsack said in a statement, estimating the number of people who could be helped at about 31,000 in states including Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico , Nevada, North Dakota. and Texas.

The statement said the Department of Agriculture plans to increase spending on high-speed Internet in the coming weeks as part of the Biden administration’s $65 billion plan to expand affordable high-speed Internet to all U.S. communities.

U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masta joined Vilsack and Mitch Landrieu, the White House infrastructure coordinator, to highlight the impact the grants and loans are expected to have in the northern Nevada community of Lawlac, home to fewer than 2,000 people, and an Indian colony Lavlak. .

“There is a need for this connection on so many levels,” Cortes Masto said, “whether it’s telemedicine, telemedicine, e-learning, workforce development. Connectivity is very important to many Nevadans.”

Internet provider Uprise LLC will receive more than $27 million to connect nearly 4,900 people, 130 businesses, 22 farms and seven public schools in Lovelake and surrounding Pershing County, officials said.

Cortez Masta, a Democrat seeking re-election in November, said the federal funds offer eligible Nevada residents a $30 a month discount on their Internet bill and up to $100 on a computer.

Midvale Telephone Co. will receive $10.6 million to provide high-speed fiber-optic Internet to people, businesses and farms in four central Idaho counties — Elmore, Blaine, Custer and Boise — and five southeastern Arizona counties: Gila, Graham, Pinal. , Cochise and Pima.

Arkansas Telephone Co. will receive $12 million to connect nearly 1,000 people, 10 businesses and 145 farms to high-speed Internet in Searcy and Van Buren counties with low-cost voice and data packages.

Alaska Power & Telephone, Unicom Inc. is scheduled to and Cordova Telephone Cooperative will together receive nearly $55.4 million to connect nearly 3,300 people, 118 businesses and seven schools in remote areas with fiber-optic networks.

In New Mexico, Continental Divide Electric Cooperative and ENMP Telephone Cooperative are to receive joint $18 million in grants to install affordable fiber networks, and Penasco Valley Telephone Cooperative will receive a nearly $29 million loan to connect “socially vulnerable communities” in Chavez, Eddy, Lincoln and Otero Counties.

Vilsack said the programs would especially help residents of what he called “persistent poverty counties,” where he said most have access to broadband, but about one in three lack the high-speed networks needed for telemedicine and distance learning.

He said the goal is to “do whatever it takes to make sure that every rural resident, regardless of zip code, has access to affordable, reliable high-speed Internet.”

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This story corrects the full name of Cortez Masto in 8 paragraphs.

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