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Feds Offer $1.15B to Fund Rural High-Speed Internet Access

Analysis  |  By John Commins  
   October 26, 2021

USDA also invests $50 million to improve access to telemedicine, distance learning for 7.6 million rural Americans.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says it will begin accepting applications for up to $1.15 billion and loans and grants to expand broadband in rural areas.

To be eligible for the ReConnect Program – part of President Joe Biden's Build Back Better Agenda -- the USDA said applicant must serve an area without broadband service at speeds of 100 megabits per second and 20 Mbps, and commit to building facilities capable of providing broadband service at speeds of 100 Mbps to every location in its proposed service area.

"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," USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a media release.

"Rural people, businesses and communities must have affordable, reliable, high-speed internet so they can fully participate in modern society and the modern economy, Vilsack said.

"As we build back better than we were before, the actions… will go a long way toward ensuring that people who live or work in rural areas are able to tap into the benefits of broadband, including access to specialized health care, educational opportunities and the global marketplace."

Funding awards will priorititize projects that serve low-density rural areas with locations lacking internet access services at speeds of at least 25 Mbps and 3 Mbps.

USDA will also consider the economic needs of the community; affordable service options; commitments 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.

USDA said it has simplified the application process and expanded the program, offering 100% grants for certain projects on tribal lands and in socially vulnerable communities.

“Rural people, businesses and communities must have affordable, reliable, high-speed internet so they can fully participate in modern society and the modern economy.”

John Commins is a content specialist and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

The USDA said applicant must serve an area without broadband service at speeds of 100 megabits per second and 20 Mbps, and commit to building facilities capable of providing broadband service at speeds of 100 Mbps to every location in its proposed service area.

Funding awards will prioritize projects that serve low-density rural areas with locations lacking internet access services at speeds of at least 25 Mbps and 3 Mbps.

USDA said it has simplified the application process and expanded the program, offering 100% grants for certain projects on tribal lands and in socially vulnerable communities.


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