The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced Wednesday that an $81 million broadband stimulus grant and a $35 million government backed loan to Springfield-based Vermont Telephone Company (VTel).
The $35,166,081 loan and $81,664,754 grant to VTel Wireless, Inc for their Wireless Open World (WOW) project is one of 49 broadband infrastructure projects announced nationally. The broadband investments will give rural residents in 29 states access to improved service that will expand economic, health care, educational, and many other opportunities to underserved rural communities. Today’s announcement is part of the second round of USDA broadband funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act).
“The VTell Wireless, Inc. project will give rural Vermont communities access to the tools they need to attract new businesses, jobs, health care and educational opportunities,” said Molly Lambert, USDA Rural Development State Director. “Bringing broadband to rural areas of the state provides a gateway for businesses and key institutions – such as libraries, schools, public safety and community centers – to provide services to thousands of people. Building the Wireless Open World network will create jobs and the completed system will provide a platform for rural economic growth in Vermont for years to come.”
The funding will allow VTel Wireless to design, engineer and construct the network, which will pass more than 57,000 homes and 3,700 businesses and provide jobs for an estimated 1,800 Vermonters. The company plans to use a model that proved effective in rural America during the Great Depression, called Rural Radio Farm Forum. They plan to send out teams of Rural Broadband Farm Forum field workers to organize several thousand neighbor-to-neighbor small-group meetings to discuss and show how broadband can help find jobs, improve schools, start businesses, access federal and state assistance, and enhance rural life.
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