The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has pledged funding worth USD410.7 million for a total of 28 rural telephone operators to build, expand and improve broadband in rural service territories across 15 states. The announcement was made at the annual meeting of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners in St. Louis, Missouri. Companies set to benefit from the investment include the Paul Bunyan Rural Telephone Cooperative in Minnesota, which will extend it its existing fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) network to 45,710 households and businesses in North Central Minnesota. Paul Bunyan has been operating since 1952 and has been affiliated to the Rural Utilities Service since 1953. Announcing the news, USDA secretary Tom Vilsack commented: ‘Today’s funding will provide residents of these rural communities with high speed internet connections to improve healthcare and educational opportunities and connect to global markets. In addition to providing much needed services to rural businesses and residents, these investments will increase jobs, not just in the near term, but through expanded opportunities in rural areas’.