U.S. Department of Agriculture invests $48 million in broadband infrastructure

U.S. Department of Agriculture invests $48 million in broadband infrastructure
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Thursday morning at Huddleston Elementary School it has invested $48 million in high-speed broadband infrastructure. This will bring broadband to more than 22,600 rural households in Virginia. (Source: WDBJ)

HUDDLESTON, Va. (WDBJ) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Thursday morning at Huddleston Elementary School it has invested $48 million in high-speed broadband infrastructure. This will bring broadband to more than 22,600 rural households in Virginia.

Bette Brand works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She revealed the USDA's 48-million-dollar loan that will expand broadband in rural Virginia.

"With that internet comes the prosperity, the vibrancy of a community, the ingenuity of entrepreneurs. It's amazing to see how that much, all of that will combine to make the community that much more vibrant and healthy," said Brand, Administrator of Rural Business Cooperative Service and Rural Development for the USDA.

Internet access is a personal issue for Brand. She became emotional when talking about how her own parents in Moneta struggled without internet for years until they finally gained access.

"It just really hit home what this means for my parents, for the school children that want to compete at the best colleges, and hopefully have those kids come back home and know that they can come home," Brand added.

Wilkes Telephone Membership Corporation will use the ReConnect Program loan to construct a fiber-to-the-premises network. In the next six years, this internet connectivity is expected to reach 19 educational facilities, 8 critical community facilities, and health care centers in 8 counties.

"This is a major progress for us, it's a landmark project, it's going to change communities," Eric Cramer, President and CEO for Wilkes Communications and RiverStreet Networks, said.

This broadband expansion was made possible when Congress provided 600 million to the USDA in March 2018.

"It's a way of life, it is really the electric equivalent of today, and if you don't have it, you're isolated," Brand said.

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