NC’s Halifax, Warren Counties Get Federal Boost Toward Rural Broadband
North Carolina’s AccessOn Networks Inc. is receiving a $17.5 million grant from USDA to connect thousands of people, 100 businesses, 76 farms and 22 educational facilities to high-speed internet in Halifax and Warren counties.
Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack made the announcement Thursday at Wake Tech Community College in Raleigh, and said the funding is part $759 million to bring high-speed internet access to people in rural and underserved areas. The funds will go to various projects to help improve internet access in 24 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, and Palau.
Mitch Landrieu is a White House senior adviser and President Biden’s Infrastructure Coordinator. He says rural areas need better internet access for many reasons.
“We’re building a better America by ensuring that our investments reach everyone, including our rural and underserved communities. Rural communities are the backbone of our nation, but for too long, they’ve been left behind, and they have been under-recognized. For too long, they haven’t had access to basic resources like affordable, reliable, high-speed internet. And considering that we all know how essential the internet is to access life-saving telemedicine, to tap into economic opportunity, to connect with loved ones, to work on precision agriculture, and so much more, that’s just beyond unacceptable that that’s not available in rural America. That is why, today, we are so excited to announce $759 million from the Department of Agriculture to bring high-speed internet access to communities across 24 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, and Palau.”
The investments include funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which provides $65 billion to help expand reliable and affordable internet access. Vilsack says rural America provides a large boost to the U.S. economy and needs reliable internet to continue doing so.
“If you think about it, rural America provides our nation’s food and energy resources, produces the fiber for goods and manufacturing, contributes more than 35 percent of our nation’s military, and operates about 80 percent of the nation’s critical infrastructure lifelines. We can ensure that rural communities have access to the internet connectivity needed to continue to expand the economy from the bottom up and the middle out.”
The $759 million in loans and grants comes from the third funding round of the ReConnect Program. For more information about investment resources for rural areas, go to rd.usda.gov.