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Trump Administration Invests $46.4 Million in High-Speed Broadband in Rural Illinois ReConnect Funding to Connect 8,500 Rural Households to High-speed Internet e-Connectivity

WASHINGTON, DC, Oct. 13, 2020 – The Trump Administration today announced that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $46.4 million to provide broadband service in unserved and underserved rural areas in Illinois. This investment is part of the $550 million Congress allocated to the second round of the ReConnect Program.

“The need for rural broadband has never been more apparent than it is now –
as our nation manages the coronavirus national emergency. Access to
telehealth services, remote learning for school children, and remote
business operations all require access to broadband,” U.S. Secretary of
Agriculture Sonny Perdue, said. “I am so proud of our rural communities who
have been working day in and day out, just like they always do, producing
the food and fiber America depends on. We need them more than ever during
these trying times, and expanding access to this critical infrastructure
will help ensure rural America prospers for years to come.”

Hamilton County Telephone Co-op will use a $20 million ReConnect grant and a
$20 million ReConnect loan to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network to
connect 19,749 people, 462 businesses, 347 farms, 16 educational facilities,
three post offices and four fire stations to high-speed broadband internet
in Saline, Williamson, Franklin and White counties in Illinois.

For the last several years, Hamilton County Telephone Co-op has been working
diligently to serve the underserved in our region of Southern Illinois with
high speed internet service. They made it their mission five years ago to expand
our network, through our subsidiary Futiva, into five neighboring counties
of Franklin, Jefferson, Saline, White, and Williamson. Although many that
live within the main towns in these counties have options, many of those
living outside city limits or on the border of the towns do not have options
when it comes to high speed internet. Today they are very excited and humbled
to announce that with the USDA’s grant and loan program, they will be able to
serve just under 8,000 locations in portions of the rural areas of these
counties in the coming years. Some of these areas include Lake Benton area,
Orient, Whiteash, Spillertown, Pittsburg, Paulton, Crab Orchard, Harco,
Ledford, Feazel Road area, Pankeyville, Muddy, Wasson, Raleigh, Brownsville,
Colony West, as well as many other rural unnamed areas. These areas were all
determined and qualified as underserved, meaning that at least 90% of the
locations in these areas do not have access to 10/1 internet service. This
multi-year project will allow them to serve the region with services that they
might not otherwise ever have access to. Once this project is completed, it
will give them close proximity to many other underserved areas within these
five counties. They look forward to bringing fast and affordable high speed
internet to this serving area and growing their network for the forseeable
future.

Flat Rock Telephone Co-op, Inc. will use a $3.2 million ReConnect grant and
a $3.2 million ReConnect loan to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network to
connect 1,460 people, 50 farms, 13 businesses and a fire station to
high-speed broadband internet in Crawford and Lawrence counties in Illinois.

Background:
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.
On April 20, 2020, USDA announced the Department has received 172
applications for $1.57 billion in Round Two of the ReConnect Program. The
second round will enable USDA to implement innovative new solutions to rural
connectivity by leveraging financial options with our partners and
continuing the success of the first round of funding. The application window
for Round Two closed on April 15.
In Round One of the ReConnect Program, USDA invested $698 million to bring
high-speed broadband e-Connectivity to approximately 167,000 households,
17,000 rural small businesses and farms, and more than 500 health care
centers, educational facilities and critical community facilities located in
33 states. To learn more about individual investments, read USDA’s Broadband
ReConnect Program report.
USDA received 11 Round Two ReConnect Program applications that are eligible
for the $100 million Congress allocated to the program through the CARES
Act.
To learn more about ReConnect Program eligibility, technical assistance and
recent announcements, visit www.usda.gov/reconnect.
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, visit www.rd.usda.gov.

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