SLVREC receives nearly $2M for high-speed internet access

Courtesy photo An SLVREC/Ciello lineman is shown installing fiber optics at an SLV home.

USDA Rural Development awards $400M nationwide

DENVER — San Luis Valley Rural Electric Cooperative (SLVREC) in Monte Vista was just awarded a $1,998,448 grant to deploy fiber-to-the-premises services (internet) in rural parts of the San Luis Valley.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced on Thursday that the Department is investing $401 million to provide access to high-speed internet for 31,000 rural residents and businesses in 11 states, part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to investing in rural infrastructure and affordable high-speed internet for all. This announcement includes a group of investments from the ReConnect Program and an award funded through USDA’s Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan and Loan Guarantee program.

REC’s subsidiary, Ciello, will use the grant to connect 129 people, eight businesses, one public school and 20 farms to high-speed Internet in unserved and underserved parts of Conejos and Alamosa counties.

“We began providing high-speed fiber optic based broadband internet access to rural areas in the San Luis Valley in 2014,” said Loren Howard, CEO of SLVREC/Ciello. “This grant, the second Ciello has received, accelerates Ciello’s commitment to bring this crucial utility service to the Valley residents. REC and Ciello are incredibly grateful for this boost in building our fiber network to difficult-to-serve areas.”

“Connectivity is critical to economic success in rural America,” Vilsack said. “The internet is vital to our growth and continues to act as a catalyst for our prosperity. From the farm to the school, from households to international markets, connectivity drives positive change in our communities.

“The investments I am announcing will help 31,000 people and businesses in large and diverse regions across the country access to new and critical opportunities. Under the leadership of President Biden and Vice President Harris, USDA knows rural America is America’s backbone, and prosperity here means prosperity for all.”

"Living in the San Luis Valley, I know the need of reliable internet access and being able to engage in remote work, telehealth, e-commerce, and online schooling,” said Armando Valdez, USDA Rural Development Colorado State Director. “Internet service strengthens community prosperity by providing connections to a vast number of resources and potential markets.

“This grant will change lives and provide quality enhancements to our telecommunication infrastructure in a strong rural community in southern Colorado. I am grateful that SLVREC pursued this opportunity. And I am so happy that residents in Conejos and Alamosa counties will be able to tap into these resources and thrive both economically and socially.”

As a provider for the Federal Communications Commission's Affordable Connectivity Program, Ciello will serve these socially vulnerable areas in Conejos and Alamosa counties. REC members that live in the Zapata area, along with some REC members along Highway 15 in Conejos County, will experience a lot of benefits from the availability of high-speed fiber broadband service in their areas.

“We are very grateful to have been awarded these funds from the Reconnect3 program,” said Ciello’s Chief Technology Officer Monroe Johnson. “This is the culmination of a lot of hard work on the part of the management team here at the cooperative, and we look forward to working with everyone involved to bring this project to a successful conclusion.

“Ciello’s mission is to bring the best broadband service available anywhere to the communities we serve, and this is a logical extension to all the work that has been completed in the last several years”.

The Department will make additional investments for rural high-speed internet later this summer, including ReConnect Program funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which provides a historic $65 billion investment to expand affordable, high-speed internet to all communities across the U.S.