COVID-19 News

USDA helps fund rural broadband upgrades for remote learning

Thanks to the US Department of Agriculture, a communications company is implementing a series of upgrades in rural parts of Oklahoma and Texas that will help facilitate coronavirus-mandated distance learning for students in those regions.

Hilliary Communications has reinforced its commitment to its customers and communities with a series of upgrades in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. This is especially important since students across the state will begin distance learning on April 6 as schools across the region go back into session remotely.

To address this emerging challenge, first Hilliary identified 57 locations in eight Oklahoma counties for community Wi-Fi locations, which will receive free internet daily between 8am and 9pm. The number of locations and the time the high-speeds will be available will allow local students to continue to learn while also prioritizing social distancing, which has been so important in slowing the spread of COVID-19. Second, Hilliary is giving its customers the ability to upgrade their current speed at no charge until the pandemic passes. Finally, Hilliary will offer up to a 25Mbps package to any household with a child in school at no charge for 90 days while also waiving installation fees in the process.

USDA Rural Development’s partnership with Hilliary extends more than 50 years, back to 1967 – and just recently two of Hilliary's subsidiaries were recipients of investments in the first round of the Broadband ReConnect Pilot Program. The subsidiaries, Oklahoma Western Telephone Company and Border to Border Communications, have received a combined $14.6 million to provide fiber to the premises over more than a thousand square miles of rural Oklahoma and Texas. They anticipate nearly 5,500 rural households will have access to high speed broadband upon completion.

The ReConnect Program is a broadband pilot program that offers federal loans, grants, and combinations thereof to facilitate broadband deployment in rural areas. ReConnect loans and grants provide funds for the costs of construction, improvement, or acquisition of facilities and equipment needed to provide broadband service to rural areas without sufficient broadband access, defined as 10 Mbps) downstream and 1 Mbps upstream.

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