The United States Department of Agriculture released $151 million in funding through its Electric Infrastructure Loan Program to Arkansas Valley Electric Cooperative.
The money will be used for power grid modernization, including installation of fiber optic cable to supply a secure high-speed communications path to nearly 60,000 Arkansas Valley Electric Cooperative customers in Franklin, Sebastian, Logan, Yell, Newton, Pope, Crawford, Madison, Scott and Johnson counties.
U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., and U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman assisted in obtaining the funding from the Trump Administration.
“We’ve provided resources to USDA and other federal agencies to help strengthen rural infrastructure in order to promote job growth and economic activity. I’m pleased Arkansas Valley Electric Cooperative is investing in upgrades to expand smart grid technologies and broadband connectivity in our state,” said Sen. Boozman, co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus.
“When so many employees and students had to do work and school online this year because of COVID-19, we all saw just how important a reliable internet connection is to our daily lives. I’m pleased to see that USDA is investing in the Arkansas Valley Electric Cooperative, allowing them to improve our infrastructure and provide thousands of families with high-speed service,” Rep. Westerman said.
Boozman and Westerman joined USDA Rural Development State Director David Branscum and Arkansas Valley Electric Cooperative CEO Al Simpson for the announcement in Ozark.
“This investment will improve electric service by connecting more consumers, building and improving lines, and modernizing our power grids which will bolster our ability to deploy high-speed broadband internet infrastructure in Arkansas’ rural communities,” said Branscum. “Under the leadership of President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Perdue, USDA is a strong partner to rural communities, because we know that when rural America thrives, all of America thrives.”
“As a rural cooperative, we are passionate about changing the communities that we serve. We are very excited about the positive impact the USDA’s Electric Infrastructure Loan Program will have on Arkansas Valley’s Fiber Smart Grid Project. Financing through USDA loans will influence the landscape of rural America, much like they did in the 1930s when we brought electricity to these same areas,” said Simpson.