Four Illinois telephone utilities to receive over $71 million in U.S. Ag Department funds to build, expand and improve broadband in rural areas.

Telephone utilities in 18 states will receive nearly $500 million in U.S. Agriculture Department funds to build, expand and improve broadband in rural areas.

The Ag Department made the announcement Monday during the annual meeting of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners in St. Louis.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the money to 28 telephone utilities will provide high-speed Internet that will improve health care and educational opportunities to rural areas, along with greater job opportunities.

Four Illinois projects received funding:

• McNabb Telephone Company--$3,700,000 in loan funds will be used to make system improvements, including constructing new Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) facilities. A total of 115 miles of buried fiber optic cable will be deployed to improve service to subscribers.

• Shawnee Telephone Company--$30,286,000 in loan funds will be used to construct FTTP facilities, allowing Shawnee to provide voice and data services at speeds of up to 100 Mbps to both residences and businesses.

• McDonough Telephone Cooperative, Inc.--$15,728,000 in funds will be used to upgrade the rural areas with Fiber-To-The-Home (FTTH) technology. Approximately 766 miles of buried fiber cable will be deployed to provide over half of the subscribers with access to improved broadband service. McDonough has been serving its rural subscribers for over 60 years.

• Wabash Telephone Cooperative, Inc.--$21,867,000 will be used to install 777 miles of buried fiber optic cables and related equipment throughout the proposed FTTP system. The FTTP system will enhance service to 70 percent of Wabash's subscribers.

Since taking office, President Obama's Administration has taken historic steps to improve the lives of rural Americans, put people back to work and build thriving economies in rural communities. From proposing the American Jobs Act to establishing the first-ever White House Rural Council – chaired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack – the President wants the federal government to be the best possible partner for rural businesses and entrepreneurs creating job opportunities and for people who want to live, work, and raise their families in rural communities.

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an existing portfolio of more than $155 billion in loans and loan guarantees. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. More information about USDA Rural Development can be found at www.rurdev.usda.gov.

Tags: McDonough Telephone Coop, rural areas, Shawnee Telephone, Tom Vilsack, USDA, Wabash Telephone

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