U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the investment of $401 million to improve high-speed internet access in rural areas. The project will deliver high-speed internet access to 31,000 rural residents and businesses in 11 states.
The investment includes $61 million in loans and $295 million in grants through USDA's ReConnect Program, and $45 million in assistance through USDA's Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan and Loan Guarantee program. Additional announcements will come later this summer regarding the remainder of the $1.15 billion in support for rural broadband included in round three of the ReConnect Program.
“Connectivity is critical to economic success in rural America,” Vilsack said. “The internet is vital to our growth and continues to act as a catalyst for our prosperity. From the farm to the school, from households to international markets, connectivity drives positive change in our communities.”
Of rural residents, 72% have access to broadband, but only 63% of rural residents who live in persistent poverty counties have moderate- to high-speed broadband. This means we are leaving many rural families, farms and businesses behind, says Vilsack.
High-speed internet will help farmers remain competitive by granting more connectivity and access to precision agriculture tools - especially when we're dealing with high input costs.
Vilsack also recognizes the importance of high-speed internet for equal education opportunities and telemedicine access. "Affordable high-speed internet is vital to work, learn and compete in a 21st-century economy," says White House Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu. "It is the gateway to life-changing and life-saving technologies."
USDA is supporting high-speed internet investments in 11 states: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, North Dakota and Texas. Several awards will help rural people and businesses on Tribal lands and those in socially vulnerable communities.
Additional investments for rural high-speed internet will come this fall as part of the $65 billion investment to expand affordable, high-speed internet to all communities through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed in 2021. In addition to expanding coverage, the legislation will lower costs for internet service and help close the digital divide for Americans.