USDA invests $5 million in two Georgia counties for rural broadband


CLAXTON, Ga. (WSAV) – A push for broadband in rural Georgia communities will bring high-speed internet to more than 1,000 households and businesses.

On Friday, United States Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced a $5 million investment into McIntosh and Evans county. Some counties across rural Georgia either have limited access to high-speed internet or none at all.

The ReConnect Pilot Program through the United States Department of Agriculture allows local governments to apply for loans and grants to provide funds to help these projects.

The $5 million projects will be invested into two high-speed broadband infrastructure projects that will create or improve e-connectivity. The Pembroke Telephone Company will use a $2 million ReConnect Program grant for McIntosh County along with a $2 million loan. The Darien Telephone Company will use a $1 million grant.

“One of the things we have been focusing on is how do we make sure that we don’t leave the rural areas behind when it comes to high-speed internet,” Georgia Representative, Buddy Carter said.

It’s a game-changer for rural Georgia.

“It’s very important for Pembroke to be able to branch out and expand our territory,” Pembroke Advanced Communications Director of Operations, Noah Covington said.

Rural broadband is a top need in rural communities that’s why local and state leaders are stepping up to help provide money for these expensive projects.

“We have people fighting up in Washington DC for rural Georgia every single day,” Georgia Governor, Brian Kemp said.

In 2018, congress provided $600 million to the USDA to expand broadband across rural America. United States Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue flew in from Washington DC to share the news with McIntosh and Evans county city leaders.

“Children won’t have to go to the town fast-food parking lot to do their homework anymore,” Perdue said.

By expanding internet connectivity this brings an economic boost to rural communities providing opportunities to create jobs.

“It’s going to make our farm economy strong,” Georgia Senator, Kelly Loeffler said.

The Darien and Pembroke telephone companies will use these grants and loans from the ReConnect Pilot Program to make this all happen.

“What if you were able to go home on the weekend to spend time with your family, but still do the research papers and the research work you need to do to advance your career,” Covington said.

“It brings so much to our state. Economic development, a better quality of life, access to telemedicine and many other things,” Kemp said.

Each county submitted applications and then was scored based on their need. McIntosh and Evans county plan to start connecting communities within the year and finishing the project in three years.

The ReConnect Program is still accepting applications. The deadline is March 16.

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