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ASTAC, MTA, and Mukluk Telephone Company Selected to Deploy Federal ReConnect Program Funds

Nov 16, 2020 | Government, News, Telecom & Tech

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The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $11.3 million to provide broadband service in unserved and underserved rural areas in Alaska, which is in addition to the $46.5 million announced early in October.

 

The investment is part of the $550 million Congress allocated to the second round of the ReConnect Program.

Arctic Slope Telephone Association Cooperative (ASTAC), Matanuska Telephone Association, and Mukluk Telephone Company have been selected to deploy fiber-to-the-premises networks with the funds.

“Broadband is a cornerstone to prosperity in Alaska’s rural communities because it is essential to economic development, as well as access to health care, educational opportunities and connections to people and services,” USDA Alaska State Director for Rural Development Jerry Ward said. “Under the leadership of President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Perdue, USDA is committed to being a strong partner in deploying this critical infrastructure in Alaska and across all of America’s rural communities, because we know when rural America thrives, all of America thrives.”

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ASTAC will use a $5.3 million ReConnect grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network. This network will connect 239 people, 28 businesses, a public school, and a post office to high-speed broadband in Kaktovik.
 
“We are thrilled the USDA has partnered with ASTAC to transform broadband services in Kaktovie,” says ASTAC General Manager and CEO Jens Laipenieks.
 
“At the direction of our board of directors, our goal is to connect all of the nine ASTAC markets to high-quality terrestrially-served broadband. Upon completion, Kaktovik will follow Utqiaġvik, Point Hope, Wainwright, Nuiqsut, and Deadhorse as fully fiber-connected communities. This grant will be instrumental in achieving that goal and further closes the digital opportunity gap between remote and urban Alaska.”
 
According to ASTAC, it will construct and operate a broadband system that makes available service of at least 25 Mbps available to residential and business customers. “The microwave network that will connect Kaktovik to the fiber optic links in Deadhorse would not be reality without infrastructure support form Exxon Mobil Alaska Production,” the company states.
 
Construction on the system will begin in the winter of 2021-2022, with a projected service date in mid-2022.
 
Mukluk Telephone Company Inc. will use a $4.1 million ReConnect grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network. This network will connect 641 people, 24 businesses, 2 public schools, 2 fire stations, two post offices, and a city hall to high-speed broadband in Teller and Brevig Mission.
 
Matanuska Telephone Association Inc. will use a $1.9 million ReConnect grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network. This network will connect 463 people to high-speed broadband in the Sheep Creek and Kashwitna areas of the Mat-Su Borough.
 
 

ReConnect Background

In March 2018, Congress provided $600 million to USDA to expand broadband infrastructure and services in rural America. On December 13, 2018, Secretary Perdue announced the rules of the program, called “ReConnect,” including how the loans and grants will be awarded to help build broadband infrastructure in rural America.
 
On April 20, 2020, USDA announced the Department has received 172 applications for $1.57 billion in Round Two of the ReConnect Program. The second round will enable USDA to implement innovative new solutions to rural connectivity by leveraging financial options with our partners and continuing the success of the first round of funding. The application window for Round Two closed on April 15.
 
In Round One of the ReConnect Program, USDA invested $698 million to bring high-speed broadband e-Connectivity to approximately 167,000 households, 17,000 rural small businesses and farms, and more than 500 health care centers, educational facilities, and critical community facilities located in thirty-three states. To learn more about individual investments, read USDA’s Broadband ReConnect Program report.
 
USDA received 11 Round Two ReConnect Program applications that are eligible for the $100 million Congress allocated to the program through the CARES Act.
 
To learn more about ReConnect Program eligibility, technical assistance, and recent announcements, visit www.usda.gov/reconnect.
Alaska Business Magazine December 2020 Cover

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