Shaheen, Hassan, Kuster & Sununu Applaud $1.9 Million USDA Investment in NH Broadband Infrastructure
**This is the first ReConnect Investment for NH in the Program’s History**
(Manchester, NH) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Representative Annie Kuster (NH-02) and Governor Chris Sununu issued the following statements in response to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) announcement that a New Hampshire company will receive a $1.9 million loan through the department’s ReConnect Program, which provides funding to improve broadband service in rural communities. This is the first time the ReConnect Program has awarded New Hampshire federal support, which will be distributed to Granite State Communications to make investments in services benefiting Hillsborough, Deering and Washington, New Hampshire.
“Now more than ever, access to broadband service is critical for New Hampshire families, especially those in rural communities. With the vast majority of Granite Staters working and learning from home, and relying on telehealth services to continue with necessary medical care, reliable internet is a fundamental need,” said Senator Shaheen. “I’m pleased the USDA selected Granite State Communications for this federal loan, which will be put to good use to bolster broadband services in Hillsborough, Deering and Washington. This is good news for New Hampshire, but this public health crisis has demonstrated that more federal investments in our broadband infrastructure are urgently needed. I’ll be pushing Senate leadership to make this a priority in future COVID-19 relief legislation.”
“COVID-19 has exacerbated the challenges that rural communities experience in accessing reliable broadband, highlighting just how critical it is to close the urban-rural digital divide,” said Senator Hassan. “This loan through the USDA’s ReConnect program is a strong step forward, and will help with Granite State Communication’s important work throughout this crisis and beyond to help students and vulnerable Granite Staters get and stay connected. Broadband is more essential than ever, and I will keep working across the aisle to build on this effort, strengthen our broadband infrastructure, and prevent communities in rural New Hampshire from being left behind.”
“Access to high-speed internet has long been a challenge in New Hampshire, and the current COVID-19 pandemic has underscored just how important it is that all Granite Staters have access to a reliable internet connection,” said Rep. Kuster, a member of the bipartisan Task Force on Rural Broadband. “The USDA ReConnect grant announced today will expand high-speed internet in Deering, Washington and Hillsborough – bringing us one step toward getting all Granite Staters access to the high-speed internet they need. I’ve called for future COVID-19 response packages to include broadband expansion so we can build on this progress and secure funding for critical broadband improvement and expansion projects across New Hampshire.”
“From leading the nation in remote learning to rapidly expanding access to telehealth services, New Hampshire is quickly adapting to these new norms under COVID-19,” said Governor Chris Sununu. “This funding will help thousands of Granite Staters remain connected to their community in these unprecedented times, and I look forward to working with New Hampshire’s Congressional Delegation in advocating for additional investments at the federal level.”
“We’re thrilled that Granite State Communications is a recipient of the UDSA ReConnect Loan Program. GSC is a third generation family business,” said Susan Rand King, President of Granite State Communications. “Over the last 10 years, we have invested millions to construct a state-of-the-art fiber optic network to the majority of our customers. The remaining areas are our most rural, and most expensive to reach. The USDA ReConnect loan will allow us to bring fiber to those customers in Washington, Deering, and Hillsboro. The pandemic has emphasized how important high-speed internet is to households and businesses, so the timing of this loan couldn’t be better. We are excited to get started.”
Earlier today, Governor Sununu, Senator Hassan, and Rep. Kuster joined Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue for a virtual press conference to discuss the funding.
Senator Shaheen, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has long championed federal support for investments in broadband and infrastructure and has consistently included federal support in yearly government funding legislation. In fiscal year (FY) 2020 legislation signed into law last year, Shaheen successfully secured funding for a new program through the Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC) to support projects that increase access to high-speed broadband and enhance the region’s capacity for business retention and expansion. In March, President Trump signed legislation cosponsored by Shaheen and Hassan into law to improve the accuracy of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) broadband maps, which help determine where billions of dollars in federal funding is distributed for broadband expansion.
Senator Shaheen has been working across the aisle to ensure that Granite Staters are able to access critical online services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Shaheen and Hassan joined a bipartisan group of Senators in urging the FCC to increase support to health care providers through the Rural Health Care Program to help them deliver and expand telehealth services for rural communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. They also joined their colleagues in calling on the FCC to help provide Wi-Fi hotspots or devices with Wi-Fi capability to students who lack internet access at home. Last month, Shaheen led a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers representing the Northern Forest region in a letter to Congressional leadership calling for the inclusion of dedicated funding for the NBRC in upcoming COVID-19 relief legislation. The Commission’s expertise in economic and infrastructure development assistance is uniquely tailored to meet the needs of the Northern Forest region, particularly concerning access to broadband.