Farm cooperative Land O'Lakes announced this week creation of the American Connection Corps, a fellowship program aimed at closing the rural broadband gap, "which places many farm communities at a disadvantage to their urban counterparts for delivering education and health care services and growing their local economies," Liz Fedor reports for Twin Cities Business Magazine.
The 50 young adults will chosen for paid, two-year fellowships "will focus on improving broadband connectivity and work on community capacity-building projects," Fedor reports. They will be chosen, trained and placed by civic leadership nonprofit Lead for America. Applications are due by May 15.
Land O'Lakes CEO Beth Ford said in a statement that millions of Americans lack broadband, a service that has "become a necessity in today’s world and, frankly, a fundamental right."
The company has long been on the broadband bandwagon. "Land O’Lakes stepped forward early in the pandemic to provide free wi-fi service to help students in rural areas gain access to internet service from their family vehicles," Fedor reports. "Land O’Lakes enlisted other companies in that effort, and in 2020, free wi-fi was being offered in about 2,300 U.S. locations." The company also "initiated formation of the American Connection Broadband Coalition, which now consists of more than 150 major companies and trade associations. It is seeking at least $80 billion in federal funding for broadband infrastructure."