WASHINGTON — USDA Rural Development has awarded approximately $63.3 million in grants and loans to bring high-speed Internet access to Pacific Northwest communities.
The funding comes from the bipartisan Federal Infrastructure Act passed by Congress in 2021. The bill provided $65 billion to expand rural broadband across the United States, with $759 million announced Oct. 27 for 49 projects in 26 states, Puerto Rico, Guam and Palau.
In a statement, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said the agency is committed to ensuring people have access to high-speed internet, wherever they live.
“That’s how you grow the economy — not just in rural communities, but across the country,” Vilsack said.
State and local governments, tribes, businesses, and cooperatives are all eligible to apply for funding from USDA Rural Development’s ReConnect Loan and Grant Program. The program helps pay for the construction or upgrade of broadband facilities and equipment in eligible rural areas.
Of the $63.3 million planned for the Northwest, $35 million will go to western Oregon to support two projects bringing high-speed internet access to nearly 5,000 people – including 100 businesses, 579 farms and two schools – in Polk, Benton, Lincoln and Lane counties.
“Fast, reliable internet is essential for the growth and prosperity of rural Oregon communities,” said Margi Hoffmann, USDA State Director for Rural Development. “By partnering with local utilities and cooperatives, USDA will ensure that even our most rural households, farms, and businesses have a chance to build a brighter, more connected future.”
These projects include $24.9 million for Philomath-based Pioneer Telephone Cooperative to build a fiber optic network connecting 3,570 people, 558 farms and 72 businesses to high-speed internet in Benton, Lincoln and Polk counties.
An additional $10.6 million will go to Florence-based Siuslaw Broadband LLC to build a high-speed, fiber-optic internet network connecting 1,407 people, 28 businesses, 21 farms and two schools in Lane County.
Elsewhere in the region, a project was funded in southwest Washington, with about $8.6 million awarded to the Kalama Telephone Company.
The company will build a fiber optic network connecting 4,330 people, 61 businesses and 21 farms to high-speed internet in rural Cowlitz County.
About $2.1 million was awarded by the USDA to the Columbine Telephone Company of Madison County, Idaho to build a fiber optic network connecting 469 people, 32 businesses and four farms to high-speed Internet.
Finally, $17.6 million will go to the Cal-Ore Telephone Company in Tulelake, California, near the Oregon border, to build a fiber network connecting 321 people, seven farms, six businesses and three public schools. high speed internet.