Monday, December 17, 2018

USDA launches $600 million broadband program

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is launching a $600 million pilot project to build out high-speed internet service in rural America. Telecommunications companies, rural electric cooperatives and utilities, internet service providers, and municipal governments can apply for funding from the ReConnect Program.

During a ceremony last Thursday announcing the program, "Chad Parker, the Rural Utilities Service assistant administrator for telecommunications policy, explained that USDA will make available approximately $200 million for grants with applications due to USDA by April 29 as well as $200 million for loan and grant combinations with applications due May 29 and $200 million for low-interest loans with applications due by June 28," Jerry Hagstrom reports for DTN/The Progressive Farmer. "Projects funded through this initiative must serve communities with fewer than 20,000 people with no broadband service or where service is slower than 10 megabits per second (mbps) download and 1 mbps upload, Parker said." In order to be approved, projects must provide speeds of at least 25 Mbps for uploads and 3 Mbps for downloads.

During the ceremony, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said that high-speed internet is "a necessity, not an amenity, vital for quality of life and economic opportunity . . . We don't want an urban-rural divide in the country." The USDA will hold a series of webinars and regional in-person workshops to help applicants learn more. The full list of events can be found here.

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