Peoples has been named as a recipient of a grant as part of the USDA ReConnect Pilot Program.
Peoples will invest $4 million, $3 million in ReConnect grant funding and $1 million internally funded, to deploy 53.7 miles of fiber-optic cable in specific un-served areas near Lake Bob Sandlin in Camp county and near Wood County Airport in Wood county Texas. This investment is anticipated to reach approximately 800 rural households.
“We are excited about the opportunity to bring broadband to these unserved areas in East Texas,” said Steven Steele, general manager. Peoples has been dedicated to telecommunications solutions since 1952 and currently has services in 17 rural East Texas counties.
At the announcement of this grant by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, Steele said the people in these unserved areas will “now have nearly unlimited access to the world via internet”. This will allow the children in these areas to have access to the “electronic curriculum used by their schools and their playing field will be leveled with their urban counterparts” as well as “enabling many people to work from home and open a world of entertainment”.
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. USDA has reviewed applications and has approved Peoples application.
These grants, loans and combination funds enable the federal government to partner with the private sector and rural communities to build modern broadband infrastructure in areas with insufficient internet service. USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas.
For more information about this USDA Program, visit: https://www.usda.gov/media/press-releases/2020/02/28/usda-invests-19-million-broadband-rural-texas-communities.