Ky. state director announces USDA investments

KENTUCKY (KFVS) - State Director Thomas G. Fern announced Wednesday that USDA is investing in rural telecommunications infrastructure and equipment to expand networks and provide more economic development opportunities in Kentucky.

"These investments will help narrow the 'digital divide' between rural and metropolitan areas," Vilsack said. "With high-speed broadband, rural residents will have improved access to advanced medical care and state-of-the-art technologies that are creating jobs and opportunities in the 21st Century economy."

The announcement supports the Obama Administration's efforts on the 50th anniversary of the declaration of the War on Poverty. Recently, the president announced five inaugural U.S. Promise Zones, an intensive and layered approach to revitalizing distressed communities. The Promise Zones will benefit from a comprehensive approach to development that will enhance and connect local assets ranging from schools to housing to jobs. One of the zones is in Southeastern Kentucky. Secretary Vilsack visited the region last week.

Today, Fern announced the award of a $24 million USDA loan to the Ballard Rural Telephone Cooperative Corporation in the western Kentucky community of La Center. The cooperative plans to build a fiber-to-the-home broadband network in Ballard County and install more than 400 miles of underground fiber cable.

"Expanding access to improved broadband infrastructure is a critical component in allowing western Kentuckians to be more competitive in our global marketplace," said Fern.

The loan is being provided through a USDA program that helps finance high-speed communications infrastructure in unserved and underserved rural areas. The $305 million in loans USDA awarded through the program in Fiscal Year 2013 will result in new or upgraded broadband service for about 120,000 rural households, businesses and community institutions once the projects are completed. High-speed broadband access is as vital to the economic fortunes of rural America as electricity was in the 1930s and 1940s.

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