U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced funding for 126 new broadband infrastructure projects in rural and tribal areas in 38 states, including Idaho Wednesday afternoon. The $1.2 billion dollars used for the program, which comes from funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, is expected to increase broadband access to 1.2 million customers nationwide.
The Potlatch Telephone Company based in North-Central, Idaho will receive more than $2.6 million to bring high-speed DSL broadband service to un-served populations.
Vilsack cited the creation of new employment opportunities in the planning, construction and maintenance steps of each new project.
“We anticipate the investment we announce to date will create 5,000 immediate and direct jobs,” Vilsack said. “In the long haul, expanding broadband access will have a profound impact on economic opportunity in communities across the country.”
The projects are expected to impact on 1,900 elementary and secondary schools—representing almost 5% of all American schools— in rural areas serving over half a million students.
“Schools with limited course offerings will be able to expand them through distance learning, advancing education and better preparing students for a very challenging 21st century economy,” Vilsack said.
Vilsack also noted first responders, healthcare workers, farmers and ranchers, distance learning students, and small business owners in rural areas will also be impacted.
“We anticipate and expect that expanding broadband will help small business owners in rural areas to be able to strengthen distribution channels, increase efficiencies and have access to global marketplaces,” Vilsack said.
To see the full list of projects, visit the USDA website.