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Posts tagged: RD

Broadband Access in South Texas

Multi-colored wires in a network

Valley Telephone Cooperative of Raymondville, Texas uses a high-speed fiberoptic distribution network to provide up to 50mbps service to its customers in south Texas thanks to support through the Recovery Act Broadband Initiatives Program.

For over 15 years, Valley Telephone Cooperative, Inc. provided its customers in the southernmost part of Texas with broadband service. Neighboring communities, however, lacked access to high-speed Internet. That changed seven years ago this week when Congress passed and President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Thanks to Recovery Act funding, Valley Telephone Cooperative received a $40 million loan and a $38.5 million grant from USDA to build broadband in unserved and underserved rural areas. Now, 11 communities—many with residents who live below the poverty line—can take advantage of services that until now were unavailable. Read more »

2,700 Miles of Fiber

A man working on broadband systems

The Recovery Act helped bring access to broadband to 6 million rural Americans. Sometimes one connection at a time.

In 2010, Scott County, Tennessee languished at a twenty-one percent unemployment rate, not unusual for rural areas. By early 2015, that rate had halved. Through fiber optic power, Highland Telephone Cooperative’s vision, and funding from USDA Rural Development, these rural counties have become robust community models of technological enfranchisement.

Five years ago in the communities dotting the Upper Cumberland Plateau, lack of broadband access was a barrier to services that residents and businesses in urban areas take for granted. Geographical challenges such as the region’s remote and rocky terrain, combined with the lack of subscribers to provide business income, are common reasons rural areas do not enjoy affordable and reliable high-speed internet service. Read more »

Local Food Systems at Work in the Driftless Area

Acting Administrator Elanor Starmer at Dubuque Food Co-op

Everybody is welcome at the Dubuque Food Cooperative, which features local, organic, and sustainably produced food. USDA photo by Bill Menner.

So called because it was left untouched by retreating glaciers that flattened much of the Midwest, the Driftless Area of northeast Iowa, southwest Wisconsin, and bits of Minnesota and Illinois is home to more than just beautiful rolling hills. It’s also the site of inspiring efforts to develop a strong regional food economy. I had the honor of visiting the region in my first trip as Acting Administrator of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).

With Secretary Vilsack’s leadership, USDA has put local and regional food front and center over the last seven years. We realize that consumer demand for local food can create economic opportunities, help develop systems that bring healthy food to underserved communities, and better connect consumers with agriculture. Building these systems often brings together unlikely partners – farmers, economic development experts, local government, school officials and supply-chain businesses – in the pursuit of shared goals. Read more »

Reducing Energy Use and Costs & Getting #USDAResults for Virginia Businesses and Farmers

Solar panels atop the storage units outside E&S Mart in Altavista

Solar panels atop the storage units outside E&S Mart in Altavista.

This week in Virginia, USDA Rural Development announced eight Rural Energy for America (REAP) grants totaling $107,500.

It’s always an honor to award REAP grants because they help Virginia’s rural businesses by rewarding innovation. The REAP program helps rural businesses and agricultural producers save money, make their operations more energy efficient, and protect the environment. Read more »

A Proactive Approach to Investing in Employee Security

USDA Rural Development staff listening as Department of Homeland Security Federal Protective Service Inspector Talis Jordans and Bangor Police Sergeant Rob Angelo discuss what to do in case of an active shooter

USDA Rural Development staff listens as Department of Homeland Security Federal Protective Service Inspector Talis Jordans and Bangor Police Sergeant Rob Angelo discuss what to do in case of an active shooter at the USDA Rural Development State Office in Bangor, Maine.

Employee safety and security have always been at the top of my list of responsibilities as State Director of USDA Rural Development in Maine.  Our 58 employees in Maine work directly with the public to deliver essential programs that impact individuals, businesses, lenders, and communities; my staff’s personal security is something that the USDA and I take very seriously.

This past November, our staff welcomed Federal Protective Service Inspector Talis Jordans from the Department of Homeland Security to provide training in Bangor and Lewiston, Maine.  Talis is an Active Firearms Instructor, a National Weapons Detection Training Program Inspector, and a Field Training Evaluation Program Instructor. Read more »

One More Tool to Help Bring Broadband to Rural America

A Pine Net worker standing near a broadband tower that is part of the upgrade for the communications and broadband systems throughout the area with the assistance of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Broken Bow, OK

A Pine Net worker stands near a broadband tower that is part of the upgrade for the communications and broadband systems throughout the area with the assistance of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Broken Bow, OK. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

“What can I do to bring broadband to my rural community?” That’s a question a lot of people from rural communities are asking, and it’s good to know that now there is one more way to help those without a rural broadband plan to bring high-speed internet service to their homes and businesses.

Communities interested in using broadband service to help revitalize small-town main streets and promote economic development are encouraged to apply for Cool & Connected, a pilot program sponsored by USDA’s Rural Utilities Service and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Sustainable Communities. Through Cool & Connected, a team of experts will help community members develop strategies and an action plan for using planned or existing broadband service to promote smart, sustainable community development. Read more »