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Rural communications get boost

An announcement by U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is good news for consumers living in rural Burnett, Douglas and Washburn counties in northern Wisconsin.

An announcement by U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is good news for consumers living in rural Burnett, Douglas and Washburn counties in northern Wisconsin.

The Rural Utilities Service has awarded a $50 million guaranteed loan to East Central Energy of Minnesota to expand and upgrade telecommunication services.

That means better business opportunities and the potential for more jobs in northwest Wisconsin, said Rural Development State Director Stan Gruszynski.

Gruszynski, a native of northeast Wisconsin, said the economy is changing, becoming more global, and the loan is designed to help rural communities compete in the new markets.

"It provides ways to attract new business, attract people who can develop businesses," Gruszynski said. "One of the things you hear a lot is the need for technological infrastructure, state of the art communications."

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East Central Energy, in Braham, Minn., was selected for funding to build 177 miles of new distribution lines, upgrade 158 miles of existing distribution lines and make improvements to generation and transmission facilities.

"This funding will directly impact residents in northwest Wisconsin by fostering growth, creating new business opportunities and expanding job potential. State of the art telecommunications are critical to the future of rural communities," Gruszynski said. "The Obama Administration has put an emphasis on rebuilding the economic prosperity of rural communities and this loan moves northwestern Wisconsin in the right direction by helping three Wisconsin counties critical to the economic viability of the region."

Since taking office, President Obama's Administration has taken steps to improve the lives of rural Americans and has provided broad support for rural communities including improvements to infrastructure, community facilities and telecommunications.

In June, the president signed an executive order establishing the first White House Rural Council, chaired by Vilsack. The White House Rural Council works throughout government to create policies to promote economic prosperity and a high quality of life in our rural communities.

Gruszynski said the current goal of expanding telecommunications infrastructure is similar to efforts under the Rural Electrification Act of 1936.

Then the federal government provided low-cost loans to bring electricity to much of rural America when privately owned utility companies resisted extending services to sparsely populated areas.

Gruszynski said the goals of providing rural communities needed telecommunications infrastructure are the same and will provide opportunity for self-sufficiency, and more stable and sustainable economies.

Monday, $900 million in loans were announced to help rural utility services upgrade, expand, maintain and replace nearly 1,500 miles of line and improve more than 1,700 miles of existing line in rural areas. More than $19 million will finance smart grid technologies.

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"We all have to do what we can to grow ... state of the art telecommunications for business, quality of life, education and hospitals," Gruszynski said.

Related Topics: DOUGLAS COUNTYTECHNOLOGY
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