The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture has announced more than $17 million in federal funding for Communications Union District ‘NEK Broadband’ to expand access to high-speed internet in the Northeast Kingdom.

The funding comes from the ‘ReConnect Loan and Grant Program’, and will go towards building a broadband network throughout Caledonia, Essex, and Orleans counties.

The U.S.D.A says this will help 3,295 people, 94 businesses, 183 farms and 11 schools across 22 towns gain access to high-speed Wi-Fi.

In a statement on the announcement Sarah Waring, USDA Rural Development State Director for Vermont and New Hampshire said, “With this landmark investment in Vermont’s broadband infrastructure, the people, businesses and organizations in areas of the Northeast Kingdom are one step closer to unprecedented access and speed, resulting in more opportunities to find work, find help, stay healthy and stay in touch.”

‘NEK Broadband’ will also be participating in the Federal Communication Commission’s ‘Affordable Connectivity’ program. Eligible households can save up to $30 a month on their internet, and up to $75 for households on Tribal lands. The program also provides up to $100 for a one-time purchase of a laptop or electronic device.

For more information on the eligibility requirements, and whether or not you can apply for the discount, go the FCC’s website.

This is the first time the ‘Reconnect Loan and Grant Program’ has awarded money in Vermont or New Hampshire.