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USDA announces more funds for rural high-speed internet

Madeleine Bumstead
Southern Idaho Economic Development
Construction begins in October 2020 on a tower in Bliss, Idaho, a city of 300 in Gooding County.

Efforts to bring high-speed internet to rural areas in the Mountain West got a boost this week, with a $400 million investment from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The grants and loans in the agency's "ReConnect" program cover the cost of building and improving broadband facilities and equipment, especially in rural areas. During a press call on Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack revealed the third round of projects in states including Idaho, Alaska, Montana and New Mexico.

“This is a program designed at USDA to take a look at places that are underserved or unserved with high-speed internet, and basically provide them the resources to improve the service so that it’s meaningful,” he said.

MTE Communications, based in Midvale, Idaho, was awarded one of the loans. It’ll get $10.6 million to bring high-speed internet directly to homes and businesses in Idaho and Arizona.

Vilsack highlighted the importance of broadband for small businesses, plus rural schools and farmers.

"If you’re a small business owner in a rural community, you may have access to your local and regional market, but with high-speed internet, which is affordable and reliable, you now will have access to the entire world," he said.

MTE Communications said, in Idaho, the money will help it finish projects it has already started in the Stanley Basin.

Separately, last year’s infrastructure law included $65 billion for broadband, and the USDA will likely start distributing that money early next year.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

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As the south-central Idaho reporter, I cover the Magic and Wood River valleys. I also enjoy writing about issues related to health and the environment.

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