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Loans and grants available to expand rural broadband

Getty/iStockphoto Person on tablet in a cornfield.
Department also invests $50 million to improve access to telemedicine and distance learning.

“For too long, the ‘digital divide’ has left too many people living in rural communities behind: unable to compete in the global economy and unable to access the services and resources that all Americans need,” Vilsack said.

On Oct. 22, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced an expansion of access to high-speed internet, health care and educational services for rural Americans.

ReConnect Program

USDA will begin accepting applications on Nov. 24 for up to $1.15 billion in loans and grants to expand the availability of broadband in rural areas. USDA is making the funding available through the ReConnect Program.

To be eligible, applicants must serve an area without broadband service at speeds of 100 megabits per second (download) and 20 Mbps (upload), and commit to building facilities capable of providing broadband service at speeds of 100 Mbps (download and upload) to every location in its proposed service area. In making funding decisions, USDA will prioritize projects that will serve low-density rural areas with locations lacking internet access services at speeds of at least 25 Mbps (download) and 3 Mbps (upload). USDA will also consider, among other things, the economic needs of the community to be served; the extent which a provider will offer affordable service options; a project’s commitment to strong labor standards; and whether a project is serving tribal lands or is submitted by a local government, Tribal Government, non-profit or cooperative.

The Department plans to make available up to $200 million in ReConnect Program loans, up to $250 million in loan/grant combinations, up to $350 million in grants with a 25 percent matching requirement, and up to $350 million in grants with no matching requirement for projects in tribal and socially vulnerable communities.

Distance learning and telemedicine grants

Vilsack also announced a $50 million investment in 105 rural distance learning and telemedicine projects in 37 states and Puerto Rico. These awards are being funded through USDA’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine program. This program helps to increase access to education, training and health care resources that are otherwise limited or unavailable.

Once the application window opens for the upcomoing ReConnect Program funding opportunity, applications must be submitted through USDA Rural Development’s online application system on the ReConnect webpage.

To learn more about ReConnect Program eligibility, technical assistance and recent announcements, visit www.usda.gov/reconnect.

Source: USDAwhich is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset. 

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