$1.2 billion allocated to improve Internet access outside cities

Staff and wire reports

Telecommunication companies across the West will receive millions in federal grants and loans to expand broadband Internet service.

The money from the U.S. Department of Agriculture is part of a $1.2 billion package for 126 projects in 38 states that was announced Aug. 4 by Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Altogether, California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington projects will get more than $76 million in federal grants and loans to bring broadband Internet service to underserved areas.

The biggest beneficiary in the West will be the Public Utility District 1 of Chelan County in Washington, which will receive a grant of nearly $25 million. That grant will be combined with $8.3 million of outside capital to extend fiber optic lines to 6,811 rural sites.

It's estimated the project will benefit about 16,000 people, 135 business and 15 community institutions.

Public Utility District 1 of Okanogan County in Washington will receive a grant of nearly $9.2 million and use another $9.9 million of outside capital to extend broadband Internet access to 6,543 homes and businesses, benefiting about 13,000 people, 1,100 business and 35 community institutions.

The largest grant for California will go to Softcom Internet Communications Inc., based in Galt, which will receive nearly $6.8 million. That project is estimated to serve 14,000 people, 4,200 businesses and several community institutions.

In Oregon, the largest projects to get funds are $5.65 million for Monroe Telephone Company and $5.44 million for Warm Springs Telecommunications Company, on the Warm Springs Reservation in central Oregon. Both projects are estimated to help about 2,000 people and dozens of businesses and community organizations.

Only one grant was announced for Idaho, which was $2 million in conjunction with a $670,000 match from Potlatch Telephone Company. That project is expected to benefit more than 700 people and about 10 businesses.

Online

More information about the project, including a link to the complete list of all grant recipients, is available on the USDA website at www.usda.gov

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