Kansas broadband projects selected for USDA Rural Development funding

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

TOPEKA -- USDA Rural Development State Director Patty Clark congratulated H & B Communications, Inc. of Holyrood, J.B.N. Telephone Company, Inc. of Holton, and South Central Wireless, Inc. of Medicine Lodge as recipients who may receive funding recently announced by President Obama, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack and Commerce Secretary Locke. The announcement included investment in sixty-six new Recovery Act broadband projects nationwide, 37 in rural America that, according to the grantees, will not only directly create over 5,000 jobs up front, but also help spur economic development in some of the nation's hardest-hit communities, creating jobs for years to come.

"The broadband projects announced will give rural communities access to the tools they need to create jobs, stimulate local economies, and build a foundation for future prosperity," Vilsack said.

The announcement begins the U.S. Department of Agriculture's second round of broadband funding announcements through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act). In all, $390.9 million will be invested in 37 projects through funding made available by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. An additional $21.9 million in private investment will be provided, bringing the total funds invested to $412.7 million. To date, $1.458 billion has been awarded to construct 105 broadband projects in 37 states and one territory.

According to analysis released by the National Economic Council last year, overall Recovery Act investments in broadband are expected to create tens of thousands of jobs in the near term and expand economic development and job opportunities in communities that would otherwise be left behind in the new knowledge-based economy. Recovery Act broadband projects help bring down the cost of private investment, attract Internet service providers to new areas, improve digital literacy among students and workers, and help create new opportunities in employment, education, and entrepreneurship by wiring homes and businesses. With new or increased broadband access, communities can compete on a level playing field to attract new businesses, schools can create distance learning opportunities, medical professionals can provide cost-efficient remote diagnoses and care, and business owners can expand the market for their products beyond their neighborhoods to better compete in the global economy.

Funding is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan, grant or loan/grant agreement. The Kansas firms selected for the recent Recovery Act broadband awards are:

H & B Communications Inc.; FTTH - Rural Ellinwood & Claflin, Kansas: $1,965,455 loan, $4,586,064 grant and $1,637,880 private investment. This fiber-to-the-home project will provide high speed broadband in the underserved rural communities surrounding Claflin and Ellinwood, Kansas. Other areas that will be served are Barton County, Ellsworth County, Rice County, and Stafford County, with a majority of the area lying within Barton County.

Robert Koch, President / General Manager of H & B Communications commented, "We are really excited to be able to bring these advantages to the customers, businesses, public safety agencies, and community anchor institutions. Providing high speed broadband access will enable small businesses to obtain greater efficiencies, promote rural economic development, and help strengthen the local economy. It will advance the technology available to the schools and increase the education opportunities of our children, affording them the same information as school children in urban areas."

J.B.N. Telephone Company, Inc.; JBN East Towns: $1,000,568 loan and $2,323,576 grant. The funding will enable the JBN Telephone Company, headquartered in Holton KS., to construct fiber-to-the-premises throughout six towns in their eastern exchange area. This area includes the towns of Corning, Goff, Havensville, Netawaka, Soldier and Wetmore.

South Central Wireless Inc.; South Central Wireless - Attica, Kansas Fiber-to-the-Premise: $560,000 loan, $557,621 grant and $575,973 private investment. The funds will enable construction of a fiber-to-the-premise infrastructure for Attica, KS, and offer voice and high speed services. The proposed technology for this system will be immediately capable of dedicated 100Mbps high-speed services for each customer without further investment of time or finances. Attica does not have wireline facilities-based broadband service available.

Steve Davis, General Manager of South Central Wireless said, "South Central Wireless is very excited that we have been awarded the opportunity to provide the residents of Attica access to state of the art Broadband services. High speed access to the Internet will foster economic development and provide schools, hospitals and law enforcement access to vital data services. Continuing education through distance learning and the latest trend of telemedicine will now be more readily accessible to the residents of Attica. Businesses will be able to effectively conduct eBusiness promoting economic growth and increased revenues directly resulting in an increased tax base which every resident can benefit from."

USDA Rural Development's mission is to increase economic opportunity and improve the quality of life for rural residents. Rural Development fosters growth in homeownership, finances business development and supports the creation of critical community and technology infrastructure. For additional information regarding USDA Rural Development and its programs, log onto the Agency's website at www.rurdev.usda.gov/ks or call the Agency's state office at 785-271-2700.