ARRA provides high speed Internet in northern WisconsinCustomers of Chequam-egon Communications Cooperative Inc. could benefit from the latest round of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding. The telecommunications cooperative that serves northern Wisconsin will receive almost $31.1 million to expand broadband service to its customers.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
Customers of Chequam-egon Communications Cooperative Inc. could benefit from the latest round of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding.
The telecommunications cooperative that serves northern Wisconsin will receive almost $31.1 million to expand broadband service to its customers. It’s the largest of 13 projects statewide that will receive $65.2 million in funding.
It is among the 126 new Recovery Act broadband infrastructure projects in 38 states and Native American tribal areas announced Wednesday by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Broadband access plays a critical role in expanding economic, health care, educational and public safety services in underserved rural communities, he said.
All told, $1.2 billion in broadband projects are funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the second round.
“The broadband projects … will give rural Americans access to the tools they need to attract new businesses, jobs, health care and educational opportunities,” Vilsack said. “The Obama Administration understands that bringing broadband to rural America provides a gateway for businesses and key anchor institutions – such as libraries, schools, public safety and community centers – to provide services to thousands of Americans. These projects will create jobs building these networks, and the completed systems will provide a platform for rural economic growth for years to come.”
An additional $117 million in private investment will be leveraged, bringing the total funds invested to $1.31 billion.
By leveraging Recovery Act funding authorized by congress, USDA has been able to provide loans and grants of $2.65 billion to construct 231 broadband projects in 45 states and one territory. The remaining authorized funds will allow an additional $1 billion in loans and grants by Sept. 30. The Recovery Act provided USDA with a total of $2.5 billion to invest in expanding broadband access to rural America.
The funding is expected to improve service for 30,480 individuals and 1,335 businesses throughout rural Wisconsin, said U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis.
“This substantial investment will expand the broadband network to places that are currently underserved, linking people to resources that have been out of reach,” Kohl said.
Chequamegon Communications Cooperative Inc. – better known as Cheqtel Communications – provides telecommunications services communities in Ashland, Bayfield, Douglas, Iron, Price, Sawyer and Washburn counties.
The company plans to deploy Fiber-to-the-Home, providing high-speed Internet access to communities it serves. More than 10,400 people, 959 local businesses and 35 community institutions stand to benefit from this improved service, according to the White House Web site.
“Investments like these are important because they will immediately bring jobs, and set up infrastructure for long-term economic growth,” said U.S. Rep. Dave Obey, D-Wausau.