Merkley, Wyden Announce Nearly $630,000 in Recovery Act Funds to Expand Broadband Internet Access to Rural Marion County

Washington D.C.
– U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) announced today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded Oregon $628,860 in Recovery Act funds to bring broadband internet access to portions of Marion County.  The Broadband Infrastructure grant and accompanying loan will help the Gervais Telephone Company expand its existing network, bringing improved internet services to rural unserved and underserved communities in Marion County.

“In this information age, access to the internet is absolutely critical to small business growth and development,” said Merkley.  “The lack of reliable service has hamstrung our economic growth.  This grant will strengthen local communities by providing small businesses, schools and vital public services with improved internet access.”

“Once again, Recovery Act funds are helping finance the infrastructure that communities need to grow and be competitive.  Fast internet access is as important to keeping business going in our rural communities as roadways and railways.” said Wyden.  “This investment will go a long way to connect our students, families, and entrepreneurs in rural Oregon with the opportunities they need to succeed.”

“The Obama Administration will strengthen communities in rural areas through these broadband investments and provide employment opportunities, building a solid foundation for future economic growth,” Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said. “The awards for these broadband projects will support anchor institutions – such as libraries, public buildings and community centers – that are necessary for the viability of rural communities.”

The Recovery Act funds awarded to the Gervais Telephone Company will be used to bring broadband internet access to residents, businesses, and farms, including Eldridge Elementary School, Salem Bible College and the Waconda and Broad Acres fire stations. The Gervais Telephone Company is an independent, member-owned cooperative telecommunications company that has been providing local service to the Willamette Valley since 1914.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded more than $300 million nationwide to 14 Recovery Act Broadband Initiative projects.  The Broadband Initiative grants are part of a larger Recovery Act initiative to modernize the nation’s infrastructure and expand educational opportunities.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act invests billions in upgrading our nation’s transportation infrastructure, promoting the development and production of clean energy, and repairing public buildings to immediately create or save jobs.  The legislation cuts taxes for 95 percent of workers and their families, including tax credits of $400 per worker or $800 per family.  Finally, a third component of the bill provides vital funding for states to prevent state layoffs and ensure the continuation of important health, education and housing services.