Greg Walden Applauds USDA for Helping Expand Rural Broadband in the Second District

December 3, 2019
Press Release

Today, Representative Greg Walden (R-Hood River) released a statement applauding the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for awarding $6 million to help expand rural broadband in Grant and Wheeler counties. The money comes from USDA’s ReConnect Pilot program, which Walden helped secure in government funding legislation last March, and is a continued part of Walden’s longstanding efforts to expand rural broadband in Oregon. The funding will allow about 600 new customers in the two counties to have access to high-speed broadband.

“At the end of last year, I met with stakeholders out in John Day who have been working to bring this funding to eastern Oregon and I am pleased to see that our efforts paid off,” said Walden. “This funding is critical to help make sure Oregonians can participate in the 21st Century economy regardless of where they live, I want to thank Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and the Trump Administration for recognizing the need to expand rural broadband in Oregon. Far too many Oregonians still lack access to reliable broadband internet service and thus access to things like telemedicine, remote learning, next generation emergency services, and video streaming because of insufficient Internet service. This is a step in the right direction, and I will continue to work to help further expand rural broadband in Oregon.”

The funding announcement follows Walden’s meeting with the Grant County Digital Network Coalition last year to discuss their plans to expand broadband access in the county and their efforts to apply for federal funding. Walden worked closely with the coalition and USDA to help secure funding for the project. Funding for the project comes through the USDA’s ReConnect pilot program, which Walden helped secure in the government funding bill in March of last year.

"We would like to thank Congressman Walden for his continued support for Grant County and the City of John Day. Congressman Walden has been a consistent advocate for improving rural broadband throughout eastern Oregon," said John Day City Manager Nicholas Green. "His efforts with Chairman Pai at the FCC and with USDA to promote programs that improve broadband access to rural communities have been instrumental in ensuring all Oregon residents have access to this critical infrastructure, regardless of where they live."

The new funding will help Oregon Telephone Corporation expand broadband access and capacity with 89 miles of fiber optic lines. The main areas impacted by these funds will be John Day and nearby communities. The overall impact of the expansion will reach 418 households, 22 businesses, 22 farms, three schools, and two fire stations. 

Over the past few years, the Second District of Oregon has seen great progress regarding the expansion of rural broadband. Walden’s 2011 law, Jumpstarting Opportunity with Broadband Spectrum (JOBS) Act, helped advance wireless broadband, spur billions of dollars in private investment, create thousands of jobs, helped bring interoperable broadband communications to public safety officials, and reduce the federal deficit. This legislation also helped open up spectrum for wireless broadband development.

Last year, Walden passed the RAY BAUMS Act into law which reauthorized the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for the first time in 28 years and will speed deployment of next generation broadband across the country.

As the Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and now as Republican Leader, Walden has led multiple hearings on the need to expand rural broadband and improve broadband mapping. He also brought FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to eastern Oregon last year to discuss efforts to improve connectivity in rural communities, including making sure patients in remote areas have access to the best doctors through technology like telehealth.