WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden today announced a $6 million grant to deploy high-speed broadband internet infrastructure in Grant and Wheeler counties—two of Oregon’s most rural, and in greatest need of internet connectivity.
The grant is among the first round awarded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) ReConnect Pilot Program, a $600 million program created in the 2018 federal spending bill. Merkley, the top Democrat on the senate subcommittee that funds USDA, was instrumental in creating and funding the program.
“I fought to increase our nation’s broadband investment after hearing from folks in every corner of Oregon that they still don’t have access to high-speed internet—a fundamental need in today’s connected world,” Merkley said. “This access will improve the economy, education, and quality of life for folks across hundreds of miles of rural Oregon. I congratulate these communities on winning this critical grant, and will continue to partner with local leaders until all of Oregon is connected.”
“This investment linking Oregonians living and working in Grant and Wheeler counties to high-speed broadband internet is a must for these rural communities to keep generating good jobs, ensuring access to quality tele-health, educating students and protecting residents,” Wyden said. “I know firsthand from conversations in both counties at town halls this fall how crucial this connectivity is for these Oregonians and for people throughout our state. I am proud to have helped these communities earn this grant that can—and should be replicated—in every nook and cranny in Oregon. ”
“We would like to thank Senator Merkley and Senator Wyden for their continuing support for Oregon’s rural communities,” said Nick Green, city manager of John Day in Grant County. “Senator Merkley’s efforts to secure funding for USDA to implement this broadband grant program were critical to our success. As a result, we will have high speed internet and a fiber optic network capable of providing future cellular phone service to communities that today lack these basic amenities. These programs will pay dividends for years to come.”
The first new fiber route will be located northwest of John Day, and will connect the towns of Long Creek, Monument and Spray. The second route will start at the northern edge of the town of Seneca and continue to Canyon City, just south of John Day.
The expanded fiber optic network will extend broadband across a 242-square-mile area that includes 418 households, 22 businesses, 22 farms, 3 schools, and 2 fire stations. Nearly 650 new customers will receive reliable access to high-speed internet services, with network speeds ranging from 30 megabits per second to 1 gigabyte per second.