WASHINGTON, May 7 -- The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) this week approved 20 rural broadband and telecommunication loans totaling $190 million to expand access to advanced technology in 19 states.
Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman announced in January 2003 that the USDA would expand efforts to bring farmers, rural residents and businesses greater access to improved telecommunication technology through loans and loan guarantees to rural telecommunications providers. Funds for the program were authorized through the 2002 Farm Bill. To date, over $206 million in broadband loans have been approved in this program.
The rural broadband access program provides loans and loan guarantees for the construction, improvement and acquisition of facilities and equipment for broadband service in eligible rural communities. Priority is given to applications that are proposing to serve areas where no residential broadband service currently exists.
Telecommunication companies like Nex-Tech, Inc. of Lenora, Kansas, are improving the capability for rural businesses and farmers and ranchers to compete globally through better access to the Internet, the USDA said. One of its customers, Osborne Industries, shared with Veneman in January 2003 how its local agricultural services manufacturing company is using high-speed connection to better manage and market itis products in domestic and international markets. Nex-Tech will receive a $5.4 million loan to further expand broadband access to 1400 new subscribers.
Of the $190 million announced this week, $150 million resulted from funding available through the 2002 Farm Bill. The remaining $40 million in loans announced came from Rural Development’s traditional telecommunications program. Borrowers are required under the traditional telecommunication loan program to ensure that all infrastructures built include broadband capability.
For more information, visit: www.rurdev.usda.gov