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Open Range gets $267 million loan to build rural Wi-Max

U.S. Department of Agriculture loans millions to Denver-based Open Range to build out broadband service for 518 rural communities in 17 states.

If you think city DSL is slow, then rural America's dial-up connection might make your head split in two. For country dwellers, that situation may change soon, thanks to a new $267 million government grant given to Open Range Communications.

This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's rural-development broadband group said it will loan millions to Denver-based Open Range to build out broadband service for 518 rural communities in 17 states, including Alabama, Arkansas, South Carolina, and Wisconsin. It expects that Open Range will serve nearly half a million households, or more than 6 million people, within five years.

The deal is a first for the government when it comes to funding a Wi-Max technology to transmit wireless data in areas not served by cable or DSL. Open Range will also use the government funds, which the company has augmented with $100 million from the private sector, to build out satellite services for emergency response, and other GPS-related services.

The loan, according to the agency, represents "one of the largest public-private investments for broadband service by the federal government."

"Communities that lack broadband are often bypassed for new economic development investments," Rural Development Undersecretary Thomas Dorr said in a statement. "Broadband is as important today as providing rural telephone service was 75 years ago."

Google recently said it has a plans to have American consumers from Manhattan to rural North Dakota surfing the Web on handheld gadgets at gigabits-per-second speeds by the 2009 holiday season.