UPPER PENINSULA, Mich. (WJMN) – The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is awarding $59 million to expand high-speed internet access to rural Michiganders through four major projects across the state, including two in the Upper Peninsula. The funds come as part of a $759 million program to expand the high-speed access nationwide.

According to releases from the USDA and Senator Debbie Stabenow, the Upper Peninsula Telephone Company will receive a $34,532,301 grant to install a fiber-to-the-premises network to connect 1,625 people, 69 farms, 40 businesses and two educational facilities with the higher speeds in Dickinson, Luce, Mackinac, Marquette, Menominee and Ontonagon counties. The company will make high-speed internet affordable by participating in the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity and the Lifeline programs.

In addition, the Baraga Telephone Company will receive a $3,302,981 loan to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network to connect 362 people, four farms and two businesses to high-speed internet in Houghton County.

“High speed internet isn’t a luxury, it’s an essential service that we need for everything from work, school, doctors’ visits, and paying our bills,” Stabenow said. “Many people in our rural communities are still frustrated by slow and unreliable internet connections. This investment brings us one step closer to ensuring that farmers, schools, businesses and residents throughout our state have access to fast, reliable internet service.”

The funds were made possible by the USDA’s Rural Development Broadband ReConnect Program.

Elsewhere in Michigan, DMCI Broadband will receive $6,245,490 million in grants and loans to connect 2,899 people, 94 farms, 56 businesses, and 4 educational facilities to high-speed internet in Branch and Hillsdale counties.

Michigan Central Broadband Company will receive a $14,948,004 grant to connect 360 people, 52 farms, and 7 businesses to high-speed internet in Crawford, Kalkaska, Otsego, and Presque Isle counties.

To be eligible for ReConnect Program funding, an applicant must serve an area that does not have access to service at speeds of 100 megabits per second download speed and 20 megabits per second upload speed. The applicant must also commit to building facilities capable of providing high-speed internet service with speeds of 100 Mbps download and upload to every location in its proposed service area.

You can learn more about the program here.