The U.S. Department of Agriculture is investing $1.6 million in a project to provide more than 1,400 rural Arizonans with high-speed broadband access.
Wecom Inc., a Phoenix-based telecommunications contractor, will use the money to construct systems that will connect residents to broadband in Peach Springs, the capital of the Hualapai Nation.
The systems will provide or improve broadband for 1,492 rural households, 27 businesses, six schools, four farms, three community facilities and a health care center.
“Through USDA’s ReConnect Program, more than 1,400 Arizonians living in rural communities will get access to the latest broadband technology that will connect them to opportunities in education, health care and economic development,” Jack R. Smith, the agency’s rural development Arizona state director said in a press release.
He added, “Under the leadership of President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Perdue, USDA is committed to this strong partnership with rural communities in deploying this critical infrastructure, because we know when rural America thrives, all of America thrives.”
Congress gave $600 million to the USDA in 2018 to establish the ReConnect program to expand broadband in rural areas. The USDA added $550 million to this funding pot in December.
Communities with insufficient service — defined as “connection speeds of less than 10 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 1 Mbps upload” — can apply for the funds.
The agency says it will continue to announce approved projects on a rolling basis.
The USDA isn’t the only federal agency working to get rural areas more technologically up-to-date.
The Federal Communications Commission this week also opened its 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Window, which allows tribes to apply for free licenses for wireless spectrum above their land without having to face outside competition.
“Depending on your needs, it can play an important role in the deployment of broadband and other advanced communications services on your Tribal lands,” the FCC said on its website.