Rural broadband development supported

Published 12:41 pm Wednesday, May 8, 2019


In March 2018, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which established a broadband loan and grant pilot program. The United States Department of Agriculture, (USDA) Rural Utilities Service, (RUS) acting on Congress’ decision, announced its intention to distribute $600 million in grant and loan funding via a pilot program for rural broadband in unserved areas lacking access to at least 10/1 Mbps. The program was announced in August 2018, but the details for eligibility and application for the pilot, initially called Rural eConnectivity Pilot Program, came in mid-December 2018. The name was also then shortened to the ReConnect program.

According to details at https://www.usda. gov/reconnect/program-overview, applications started undergoing review in April.

Charlotte County, recognizing the immense potential benefits afforded by the ReConnect program, has joined with Bedford, Brunswick, Campbell, Halifax, King and Queen, Lunenburg and Mecklenburg counties in providing unanimous and unequivocal support for Wilkes Communications Inc./ River Street Networks and its proposal to provide Fiber to the Premises, (FTTP) in each of the counties.

In a letter dated May 8, addressed to United States Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, County Administrator Daniel Witt, on behalf of the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors, expressed support for the proposal, explaining the necessity for reliable broadband access throughout Charlotte County. He provided a clear description of the numerous benefits to education, health care and overall quality of life that broadband access can provide to county residents. He also cited challenges such as topography and low population density that rural counties such as Charlotte and fellow supporting counties face attempting to provide full access broadband to residents.

Witt said in summary, “We recognize the importance of broadband to our citizens as well as to the other counties included in the proposal.

“Increased availability of broadband service will increase educational opportunities and economic growth in our communities.

“Wilkes Communications, Inc/River Street Networks’ proposed investment in broadband infrastructure, utilizing a ReConnect Loan, will help address the needs for broadband access in a highly underserved area, improving access to educational resources, increasing health care options, and creating new business opportunities for citizens.

“Please consider their application and know that we will stand in support of their efforts.”

Additionally, a USDA report released in April entitled “A Case for Rural Broadband: Insights on Rural Broadband Infrastructure and Next Generation Precision Agriculture Technologies,” examines the numerous groundbreaking contributions that a sound and interconnected rural broadband infrastructure can make to future agricultural technologies, specifically as support for Next Generation Precision Agriculture Technology. Internet reliant agricultural technologies have proven their potential and are growing exponentially. A wide range of applications designed to boost yields by monitoring a number of conditions across large areas and providing real time updates are available today. Many applications depend on satellite connectivity, which can provide inconsistencies for a variety of reasons.

Quoted in the April USDA report, Secretary of Agriculture Perdue said, “When we are able to deploy broadband ubiquitously, think of all the things we will be able to design, harvest and develop … Broadband in rural America will be as transformative in the 21st century as rural electrification was in the last century.”

The report can be found in its entirety at https://www.usda. gov/media/press-releases/2019/04/30/ usda-releases-report-rural-broadband-and-benefits-next-generation.