By Tony Parra
A change in the availability of fiber optics for the residents of Roosevelt County is on the horizon after U.S. Representative Tom Udall confirmed Yucca Communications of Portales will receive more than $11 million in loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Broadband Access Loan and Loan Guarantee program on Monday.
Yucca Communications General Manager Scott Arnold said the money could be used to provide broadband services.
“Over the last five years we’ve place fiber around the downtown area, ENMU (Eastern New Mexico University), hospital and rural schools,” Arnold said. “We’ve been working on it (fiber-optic placement) for years.”
Arnold said he hopes Yucca Communications can expand fiber optics to encompass the entire city limits and some surrounding areas.
Arnold said many Yucca employees were involved in the application process. He said Donnie Massey, who retired in late June, began work on the application. He said the application was completed on July of 2003.
Arnold said Yucca Communications officials will have to pay back the loan at 5 percent for 16 years. He said some of the paperwork still has to be signed and completed by USDA Rural Broadband Access Loan and Loan Guarantee program officials out of Washington D.C.
“We’re ready to go out and use the loan as soon as we can,” Arnold said. “There was no guarantee whether we would receive it. I felt there was a good chance to get the whole portion.”
The function of the USDA Rural Broadband Access Loan and Loan Guarantee program is to fund costs of contruction, improvement to acquisition of facilities and equipment to provide broadband services to rural communities.
For instance, Arnold said, if Yucca Communications wanted to provide broadband service, they could acquire the business which already offers the service in an area, such as a cable company. Udall, in a press release, said there were requests from more than 60 prospective rural broadband providers, but the USDA Rural Utilties Servies approved only about 12, totaling approximately $132 million.
“Providing broadband services to rural communities is crucial to improving the standards of living for all Americans,” Udall said in the release. “This significant loan from the USDA will create more jobs and provide economic stimulus to eastern New Mexico’s economy.This endeavor will expand internet access to communities throughout Roosevelt County, Melrose, Texico and Curry County.”