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USDA Announces Rural Broadband Funding

RALEIGH, N.C. (October 27, 2022) – Gov. Roy Cooper and North Carolina Congresswoman Deborah Ross joined U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and White House Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu in a major funding announcement at Wake Tech today. The U.S. Agriculture Department is providing $17.5 million to Wake County company AccessOn Networks to bring high-speed broadband to rural communities in Halifax and Warren counties.

"People living in rural towns across the nation need high-speed internet to run their businesses, go to school and connect with their loved ones," Vilsack said in his remarks. "USDA partners with small towns, local utilities and cooperatives, and private companies to increase access to high-speed internet so people in rural America have the opportunity to build brighter futures."

The announcement was made in the Heavy Equipment and Transport Technology Building on Wake Tech's Southern Wake Campus, home of the college's acclaimed John Deere TECH program. The program is one of only three in North America to gain platinum status due to its quality facilities, instructors and engagement with local dealerships.

Wake Tech trains skilled technicians to maintain and repair agricultural and other heavy equipment used for laying broadband cable. Wake Tech also offers an accelerated course that trains certified fiber-optic technicians.

"This USDA investment will have tremendous impact on our neighbors in rural Halifax and Warren counties by providing greater access to connect thousands with high-speed internet, which is so vital in today's digital world," said Wake Tech President Dr. Scott Ralls. "It also reinforces the need for education and training for future fiber-optic technicians and grows the region's economy with workforce development opportunities for local companies like AccessOn Networks."

Ralls serves on the U.S. Telecommunications Interagency Task Force, charged with identifying current and future needs of the telecommunications industry workforce. Under his leadership, Wake Tech also launched a WakeWorks Apprenticeship program to train telecommunications tower technicians.

Funding provided to AccessOn Networks is part of the USDA's ReConnect Loan and Grant Program. It will bring high-speed internet access to 100 businesses, 76 farms and 22 educational agencies in Halifax and Warren counties. ReConnect funds can be used to pay the costs of construction, improvement or acquisition of facilities and equipment needed to provide broadband service.

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January 2023

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