The Buildout: USDA ReConnect awards $759M for broadband in 24 states

This week in broadband builds: USDA awards $759 million for rural broadband, SiFi Networks starts citywide build in Saratoga Springs, Kinetic goes to Kentucky, Vermont awards $26 million – and more.

The Buildout is a column from Light Reading tracking broadband network deployments. This week we're tracking fiber broadband builds reaching over 200,000 locations across the US and UK. Send us your news right here. Keep up with every installment of The Buildout here.

  • The USDA on Thursday announced it will award $759 million through its ReConnect program for 49 broadband projects across 24 states, Puerto Rico, Guam and Palau. The projects will cover nearly 152,000 premises. This marks the third round of ReConnect awards thus far. Of that amount, roughly $667.9 million is in the form of grants and $91.4 million is in the form of loans, according to comments made by Secretary Tom Vilsack on a call with reporters. The program, which aims to expand broadband in the rural US, has distributed $1.6 billion for broadband builds this year and is accepting applications for its fourth round now. All ReConnect builds have a five-year timeframe. Some of the awardees announced Thursday are:

    • North Carolina's AccessOn Networks is receiving $17.5 million to connect thousands of people, 100 businesses, 76 farms and 22 educational facilities in Halifax and Warren counties in North Carolina.
    • Eastern Slope Rural Telephone Association is getting $18.7 million to deploy fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) to thousands of people, 898 farms, 110 businesses and 17 educational facilities in Colorado.
    • Tekstar Communications is receiving $12.6 million to connect thousands of people, 171 farms, 103 businesses and an educational facility to a fiber network in Minnesota.
    • The Public Service Telephone Company in Georgia is getting $36.5 million to connect 21,289 people, 569 businesses, 323 farms and 29 educational facilities.
    • In Illinois, Shelby Electric Cooperative Inc. is getting $26.5 million to deploy a network connecting over 4,000 people, 61 businesses, 511 farms and two educational facilities.
    • The Navajo Tribal Utility Authority will receive $7.1 million to connect nearly 5,000 people, 27 businesses, ten education facilities and two farms in Navajo Country in Arizona.

  • SiFi Networks, a privately owned telecom company that builds open access networks, joined officials in Saratoga Springs, New York, this week to kick off a new fiber network dubbed Saratoga Springs FiberCity. The $32 million project will bring an open access fiber network to the entire city, with GigabitNow signed on as the first ISP. SiFi's network will be able to deliver up to 10 Gbit/s. The first homes are expected to go live next fall, with the full project set for completion in 2024. According to a press release about the project, Saratoga Springs FiberCity is New York's first citywide fiber-optic network.
  • WOW! will expand to Headland, Alabama, according to a press release from the company this week. The network will be able to deliver symmetrical speeds of 5 Gbit/s. WOW! currently serves other cities in Alabama including Dothan and calls this edge out into Headland "a significant step for the company."
  • Officials from Kinetic by Windstream joined Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear on Tuesday to announce that the company's network will soon reach ​​7,200 homes and businesses in Zoneton and surrounding parts of Bullitt County. According to a press release, the company plans to finish laying underground optical fiber cables for the Bullitt County fiber project by January 2023, a year after construction started. The build is part of Kinetic's $2 billion effort to expand gigabit service across its 18-state footprint.

  • Vermont's Community Broadband Board (VCBB) approved $26.45 million in broadband grants on Tuesday. The funding is split across three grants that will bring broadband to more than 4,000 underserved Vermont addresses. According to the announcement, $9.1 million is going to a Maple Broadband/Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom (WCVT) partnership to expand fiber broadband into parts of rural Addison County. Another $8.35 million was awarded to WCVT to reach an additional 1,200 underserved addresses. And $9 million was awarded to Southern Vermont Communications Union District (SoVT CUD), which is partnering with Consolidated Communications to bring broadband to 6,412 addresses across southern Vermont, including 1,300 of which are underserved.
  • TDS Telecommunications broke ground on a fiber build in Minnesota this week. The project will bring fiber connections to more than 3,700 premises across the Minnesota regions of Brooten, Danube, Kerkhoven, New London, Pennock and Spicer, according to a press release. The expansion is funded by TDS, with the first customers expected to be connected next summer. TDS recently wrapped up other fiber expansion projects in Minnesota covering 2,900 addresses.
  • And over in Northern Ireland, officials announced that the publicly funded Project Stratum has reached roughly 46,000 premises – or over half of the addresses it has committed to connecting to gigabit-ready broadband. The project, paid for with £197 million (US$229.1 million) in government funds, is being carried out by Fibrus Networks. According to a press announcement, "Project Stratum is the largest publicly funded telecommunications infrastructure project of its kind in Northern Ireland." The project aims to improve connectivity for premises without access to services of at least 30 Mbit/s. Fibrus Networks is reportedly on track to reach all 85,000 premises in its contracted footprint by March 2025.
  • Related:

    Nicole Ferraro, editor, Light Reading, and host of "​​The Divide" podcast.

    Sign In