Blog & Tools

USDA Invests $3 Million in High-Speed Broadband with SDN Communications for Black Hills Communities

2019 ReConnect Fiber Grant Map
The blue lines west of Rapid City depict the ReConnect fiber route to be built by SDN Communications.

Contact: Vernon Brown
(605)310-8200 - Cell

New e-Connectivity Opportunities to be Provided for 308 Residents and Businesses

WASHINGTON, May 12, 2020 – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced the USDA is investing $3.3 million to provide broadband service in the unserved and underserved communities of Nemo, Rochford and Silver City in the Black Hills of South Dakota. This funding is part of USDA’s round one investments through the ReConnect Pilot Program.

SDN Communications will match USDA’s $3.3 million grant with $1.1 million of its money to construct 45 miles of fiber infrastructure. This award will extend broadband availability to 292 residents, two farms and 14 businesses in Pennington and Lawrence counties.

“Those granite hills surrounding Nemo, Rochford and Silver City hard to penetrate,” said SDN Communications CEO Mark Shlanta. “In fact, burying fiber will cost more than $65,000 a mile. It is an expensive project that would not pencil out without this public-private partnership.”

Although expensive, Shlanta says reliable connectivity is necessary for the residents and tourists. Without fiber optics, Black Hills wireless telephone and data service are also unreliable. This project could help.

“Emergency service providers have told me about bad accidents – cars, ATVs, snowmobiles – where victims and emergency service providers have no cell phone service. We hope this project will change that and improve public safety.”

SDN has also submitted a 2020 ReConnect grant application to expand from the current award.

“The Black Hills have always been on SDN's build list. I do not live there, but I am a South Dakotan who enjoys spending time there,” Shlanta said. “I believe this project and future expansions will make the region an even bigger draw.”

Watch the announcement below.


In March 2018, Congress provided $600 million to USDA to expand broadband infrastructure and services in rural America. On Dec. 13, 2018, Secretary Perdue announced the rules of the program, called “ReConnect,” including how the loans and grants will be awarded to help build broadband infrastructure in rural America. USDA received 146 applications between May 31, 2019, and July 12, 2019, requesting $1.4 billion in funding across all three ReConnect Program funding products: 100 percent loan, 100 percent grant and loan-grant combinations.

On April 20, 2020, USDA announced the Department had received 172 applications for $1.57 billion in round two of the ReConnect Program. The second round will enable USDA to implement innovative new solutions to rural connectivity by leveraging financial options with partners and continue the success of the first round of funding. The application window for round two closed April 15. USDA received 11 round one ReConnect Program applications that are eligible for the $100 million Congress allocated to the program through the CARES Act.

To learn more about ReConnect Program eligibility, technical assistance and recent announcements, visit USDA is reviewing applications and announcing approved projects on a rolling basis. Additional investments in all three categories will be made in the coming weeks.

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit

    Receive the latest project developments by subscribing to our ReConnect Newsletter. Use the button below to visit the project's feature page and fill out the form.


    About SDN Communications:

    SDN is owned by 17 South Dakota telecommunications companies - cooperatives, family, municipal, and tribal-owned companies. They joined their independent networks in 1989 and created SDN as a hub for long-distance service to their rural customer base. Today that same statewide fiber footprint allows file sharing and internet traffic. Additionally, SDN partners with nine southern Minnesota and one northern Iowa independent telecommunications companies. SDN’s network now reaches into eight states serving businesses in many sectors, but specializing in banking, health care, manufacturing, government, and education. SDN also offers cybersecurity managed services including routers, firewalls, and remote network monitoring. Learn more at