Rural Broadband Grants Announced

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Libraries, schools, community centers and other public buildings in rural and tribal areas could soon see faster Internet speeds thanks to 12 broadband-infrastructure grants awarded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced awards totaling $150 million for 12 projects to boost Web surfing speeds in Alaska, Illinois, Arizona, Kansas, Minnesota, North Dakota and other states. The mostly private companies winning the grants provided an additional $68.2 million in matching funds.

The money will help some rural communities replace slow or nonexistent Internet service. The Tohono O’odham Utility Authority, in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, received grants and loans to switch from dial-up service to a digital network. Copper Valley Wireless will extend Internet connectivity in Alaska from Naked Island to Cordova.

The money is intended to help expand business opportunities but also to support “anchor” institutions, such as libraries and schools.