USDA announces $6.3M fund for high-speed internet in rural Kansas

Published: Sep. 22, 2022 at 9:12 PM CDT
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HOLTON, Kan. (WIBW) - U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Under Secretary Xochitl Torres-Small visited J.B.N. Telephone Company Inc. in Holton on Thursday to announce more than $6 million in funding for high-speed internet access for rural residents and businesses in eight counties in Kansas and Nebraska.

“High-speed internet is essential for success in education, healthcare, and business in the twenty-first century,” said Christy Davis, USDA Kansas State Director for Rural Development. “Federal funding makes it possible for communications companies, like J. B. N. Telephone, to serve our state’s rural communities.”

The grant totals $6,319,640. It will be used to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network. The network will connect 704 people, 17 businesses, and 225 farms to high-speed internet in Jackson, Nemaha, Pottawatomie, Republic, Washington, and Riley counties in Kansas as well as Jefferson and Thayer counties in Nebraska.

The USDA is partnering with J.B.N Telephone Company Inc. to make high-speed internet affordable by participating in the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity and Lifeline programs. It will provide low-income consumers who qualify for a monthly service credit up to $30.

“We’re excited to be a part of it,” said Austin Taylor with J.B.N. Telephone. “We couldn’t be more happy to be here in this room talking about JBN and these opportunities. We’re thankful and we look forward to the many opportunities that are going to continue to come to bring fiber to rural America.”

“We were able to reach places that were truly unserved, to go where we couldn’t go before,” Torres-Small said. “(J.B.N. is) investing in the hardest to reach places, the hardest to reach homes, and they’re also investing in the ways that will increase the speed, to future-proof the speed, and be affordable.”

USDA is making the investments through the third funding round of the ReConnect Program. The Department will make additional investments in the coming months with funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure law, which provides a $65 billion investment to expand affordable, high-speed internet to all communities across the U.S.