Three Northeast Nebraska Counties To Benefit From ‘ReConnect’ Program

WAYNE – Over the weekend U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced they’ll be investing $5.7 million in a high-speed broadband infrastructure project.

According to a release from the USDA, American Broadband (Eastern Nebraska Telephone Company) will use these funds to construct miles of fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) broadband infrastructure. This is one of many funding announcements in the first round of USDA’s ReConnect Pilot Program investments.

ABB officials state the $5.7 million grant through the USDA ReConnect Program will provide high-speed broadband in unserved portions of Madison, Wayne, and Pierce counties.

The investment is also expected to connect 489 rural households, 24 farms and eight businesses to high-speed broadband internet in unserved portions these three counties.

Headquartered in Blair, American Broadband provides long-distance and wireline voice to all its exchange areas and high-speed broadband service to select areas. The company will use matching funds of $1.9 million to complete the project, for a total project cost of $7.6 million. Eastern is a certificated local exchange carrier providing broadband service to its eight exchanges in eastern Nebraska.

Congress provided $600 million to USDA in March of 2018 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 is reviewing applications and announcing approved projects on a rolling basis. Additional investments in all three categories will be made in the coming weeks.

Then, this past December, Agriculture Secretary Perdue announced USDA will be making available an additional $550 million in ReConnect funding in 2020. USDA will make available up to $200 million for grants, up to $200 million for 50/50 grant/loan combinations, and up to $200 million for low-interest loans. The application window for this round of funding will open Jan. 31, 2020. Applications for all funding products will be accepted in the same application window, which will close no later than March 16, 2020.