Alaska to Receive $46 million in USDA Grants to Expand High-Speed Internet Access
U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, and Congressman Don Young, (all R-Alaska) joined U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue today for a virtual announcement of more than $46 million in USDA Broadband ReConnect Program grants being awarded to two Alaska service providers to establish and improve broadband infrastructure in some of the state’s most remote communities. The grants are matched by nearly $17 million contributed by the grant recipients, bringing the total investment to roughly $63 million.
“The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the shortcomings of not being connected, a familiar problem to many Alaskans for far too long. We must continue to help Alaskan communities have the telecommunications broadband infrastructure that is taken for granted elsewhere,” said Senator Murkowski. “The announcement of these two grants is incredibly exciting news for Southeast and the Aleutians, and will improve connectivity for families, businesses, schools, other critical community services, and so much more. I appreciate Senator Sullivan and Congressman Young for working with me on this effort and thank Secretary Purdue for addressing the needs of Alaskans.”
“Gaining access to high-speed internet connectivity can be life-changing, especially for residents in rural Alaska where communication resources and infrastructure are most scarce,” said Senator Sullivan. “Thousands more Alaskans across the state will finally experience a utility so many of us take for granted, one that has shown itself to be absolutely indispensable in the age of COVID-19. I appreciate that Secretary Perdue has made these funds available after our numerous discussions and correspondences in which I have called attention to the lack of broadband across our state. As a member of the Commerce Committee, I will continue to work relentlessly to bring high-speed internet access to all communities across Alaska.”
"Alaskans from our cities, rural areas, and Native villages all deserve access to high quality, reliable broadband," said Congressman Young. "The COVID-19 pandemic has shined a light on the urgent need for internet access across our state. At this very moment, countless students are distance learning; working parents may be using the internet to learn new skills to help them succeed in the workforce; and some of our most vulnerable populations are utilizing telehealth services. We must ensure that all communities in our state are connected and empowered to thrive. I am grateful to Secretary Perdue for making these crucially needed investments in Alaska, and I remain confident that high-speed internet access will not only help our families prosper, but prepare our economy to come out of this pandemic stronger than ever before."
“The need for rural broadband has never been more apparent than it is now – as our nation manages the coronavirus national emergency. Access to telehealth services, remote learning for school children, and remote business operations all require access to broadband,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said. “I am so proud of our rural communities who have been working day in and day out, just like they always do, producing the food and fiber America depends on. We need them more than ever during these trying times, and expanding access to this critical infrastructure will help ensure rural America prospers for years to come.”
The two USDA grant recipients are Alaska Power & Telephone (AP&T) Wireless Company and Unicom, Inc., a subsidiary of GCI. AP&T Wireless was awarded $21.5 million to deploy a network connecting 225 individuals, 32 businesses, an educational facility, a post office, and a fire station in Alaska’s Prince of Wales Island region. Unicom was awarded $25 million to deploy a network connecting 7,441 people, 310 businesses, ten educational facilities, seven post offices, four fire stations and a city hall across Southwest Alaska and the Aleutians.
The announcement today follows a $19 million ReConnect grant awarded in 2019 to Cordova Telephone Cooperative to provide connectivity to 270 households in Yakutat, a project expected to be completed by the fall of 2021.
USDA’s Broadband ReConnect Program furnishes loans and grants to provide funds for the costs of construction, improvement, or acquisition of facilities and equipment needed to provide broadband service in eligible rural areas.
Senator Sullivan, Senator Murkowski, Congressman Young and Governor Mike Dunleavy wrote a letter to Secretary Perdue in April in support of the Alaska grant applicants.