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Agriculture Under Secretary Announces Project to Provide Broadband to Rural Alaska Community

Washington, DC, Oct 17, 2012 -- Agriculture Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager announced today that St. Paul, a predominantly Alaska Native community in the Pribilof Islands, will receive a Community Connect Grant to bring broadband access to residents, community buildings and businesses. The announcement was made on Tonsager’s behalf by Rural Development Alaska State Director Jim Nordlund during the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention in Anchorage.

“Without broadband, rural communities and business owners face a substantial challenge.” Tonsager said. “In Alaska, this grant will bring the benefits of broadband, including new educational, business and public health and safety opportunities to rural residents living in a remote area.”

Tanadgusix Corporation has been selected to receive a $554,140 Community Connect Grant to construct a network to serve residents, businesses and the school in the community of St. Paul, which is located in the Bering Sea on the largest of the Pribilof Islands. The project will upgrade the network which is no longer capable of providing broadband services to the residents of St. Paul. Additionally, a community center will have access to free internet service for residents for at least two years.

The Community Connect program provides grants to rural, economically challenged communities. Funds can be used to construct, acquire or lease facilities to deploy broadband to community facilities such as schools and public safety buildings, as well as residents and businesses in the community. Each project requires a matching contribution and must serve an area where broadband is not available. The grantee must agree to provide local community centers in the selected towns with at least 10 computers which are accessible free for two years. USDA funding for all loans and grants is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan or grant agreement

In addition to the Community Connect grant, Under Secretary Tonsager announced that Ilisagvik Tribal College in Barrow has been selected to receive a $158,656 Tribal College Initiative grant to modernize the transportation fleet to meet growing demand for onsite employee training. The USDA Rural Development’s Tribal College Initiative Grant Program is part of the Community Facilities Program.

Investing in Tribal educational facilities is key to increasing economic development in Native communities. These institutions and the students and faculty will benefit from funding that will enable them to provide enhanced educational opportunities and create jobs.

Since taking office, President Obama’s Administration has taken significant steps to improve the lives of rural Americans and has provided broad support for rural communities. The Obama Administration has set goals of modernizing infrastructure by providing broadband access to 10 million Americans, expanding educational opportunities for students in rural areas, and providing affordable health care. In the long term, these unparalleled rural investments will help ensure that America’s rural communities are repopulating, self-sustaining and thriving economically.

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, has an active portfolio of more than $174 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.

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