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Help is on the way for the millions of Americans living in rural areas without access to the internet. A government program is set to provide over a billion dollars to help companies and organizations expand broadband services.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will start accepting applications on Nov. 24, 2021, 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,” according to a press release.
“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,” said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.
The program doesn’t fund individuals seeking help with their internet bill — the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit program addresses that need.
This program is for entities that will construct or improve facilities to provide fixed terrestrial broadband service in rural areas. The facilities can include buildings, land or fixed wireless services. The fund can also cover pre-application expenses and the acquisition of an existing system that does not currently provide sufficient access to broadband.
Entities that can apply include corporations, partnerships, co-ops, state or local governments and any U.S. territory or Indian tribes.
An applicant must serve an area without broadband service at speeds of 100 Mbps 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, the “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.”
Among other items, the agency will also consider economic need, the extent a provider will offer affordable service options and if a project is submitted by a local government, tribal government, nonprofit or co-op.
The USDA’s press release says the agency has simplified the application process and has expanded the program. “For example, ReConnect will now offer 100% grants for certain projects on tribal lands and in socially vulnerable communities.”
Until the Nov. 24 launch, interested parties can submit ReConnect questions using this form: www.usda.gov/reconnect/contact-us.
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Written by:Robin Layton
Editor, Broadband Content
Robin is an editor with Allconnect, handling broadband content. She holds an English degree from Shepherd University in West Virginia. She has worked as an editor, writer and designer for several newspapers acro… Read more
Edited by:Joe Supan
Senior Writer, Broadband Content
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