Funding from Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Will Bring High-Speed Internet to Families, Farms, and Businesses Across Nine Counties
Denver — Today, Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper welcomed a $18.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the Eastern Slope Rural Telephone Association, Inc. to deploy a fiber-optic network to connect families, farms, businesses, and educational facilities in nine Colorado counties. This grant comes from the USDA’s ReConnect Program, which received nearly $2 billion in new funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law as part of a broader $65 billion investment to deploy affordable, high-speed internet across the country
“This $18.7 million grant is exactly the kind of investment we have to make in rural America,” said Bennet. “In the year 2022, high-speed internet is a necessity for families, farmers, and small businesses everywhere. As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, that is why I have consistently supported USDA’s ReConnect program to expand high-speed internet in rural communities, and why I helped secure $65 billion in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to bring affordable, high-speed internet to every American. I am grateful to see these funds hit the ground in Colorado and make a difference for rural communities.
“Bringing high-speed internet to our rural communities on the Eastern Plains is critical for small businesses, telehealth, virtual classes, and more. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law continues to deliver for all Americans,” said Hickenlooper.
“The Eastern Slope Rural Telephone Association, Inc. is pleased to accept a ReConnect grant that will bring broadband to nearly 4,000 square miles of Eastern Colorado. Upon completion of the fiber-to-the-premise project, our cooperative members will have access to abundant, reliable and affordable broadband. We would like to thank Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper for their support of broadband in rural Colorado,” said Patricia White, General Manager/CEO, Eastern Slope Rural Telephone Association, Inc.
With today’s $18.7 million grant, the Eastern Slope Rural Telephone Association, Inc. will deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network to connect 2,284 people, 898 farms, 110 businesses, and 17 educational facilities to affordable, high-speed internet in Adams, Arapahoe, Cheyenne, Crowley, Elbert, Kiowa, Kit Carson, Lincoln, and Washington counties in Colorado.
Bennet has long advocated for affordable, high-speed internet access for rural and Tribal communities. In June 2021, he introduced the bipartisan Broadband Reform and Investment to Drive Growth in the Economy (BRIDGE) Act to provide $40 billion in flexible funding to states, including $2 billion to Tribal governments, to deploy affordable, high-speed internet across the country. The BRIDGE Act was later incorporated into the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which is now making the largest broadband investment in U.S. history. Hickenlooper was part of the bipartisan group of Senators who authored the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and served on the broadband working group.
In March 2021, Bennet also led a bipartisan letter to the Biden administration urging it to update the minimum speeds for federally funded broadband networks to ensure rural communities enjoy the same, ultra-fast internet required for the 21st century. USDA’s ReConnect Program later updated the minimum standards to require download and upload speeds of at least 100 megabits per second, consistent with Bennet’s letter. The Federal Communications Commission has since proposed to update its minimum standards as well.
Earlier this month, Bennet and Hickenlooper welcomed nearly $23 million for the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe from the Department of Commerce’s Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program to expand high-speed internet access to Tribal and rural communities. In September, the Delta-Montrose Electric Association also received a $13.8 million grant from the USDA’s ReConnect program to expand its fiber optic network primarily in Delta and Montrose counties.