Deputy Agriculture Secretary Chuck Connor today announced the availability of $8.9 million in grants for communities without broadband service to provide residential service and connect facilities such as police and fire stations, health care, libraries and schools.
"The Community Connect Grant Program has proved to be effective in reaching those rural communities where broadband service is least likely to be deployed," Conner said. "Connecting residents and essential community facilities improves local services and the protection of the citizens of these communities."
Grants are available to communities in the most rural, economically challenged areas where loans will not be sustainable. In Horseshoe Bend, Idaho, for example, no company had invested in providing broadband delivery to the community of 770 people. However, local businesses, schools and residents worked with the BitSmart Corp. to file a USDA Community Connect Grant, which was approved. Now, BitSmart has established wireless internet availability and an integrated system connecting law enforcement, health care providers, and school and government offices. Additionally, students in a business class at the high school are serving as BitSmart's local operations staff.
"Providing community residents with access to the internet and training on how to use it helps rural citizens understand the benefits of broadband service and is one more economic development tool available through USDA Rural Development," said Agriculture Under Secretary for Rural Development Thomas C. Dorr.
Applications for grants are due by close of business August 13, 2007. There is a minimum grant level of $50,000 and a maximum grant level of $1,000,000 for projects.
USDA Rural Development's mission is to increase economic opportunity and improve the quality of life for rural residents. Rural Development has invested more than $76.8 billion since 2001 for equity and technical assistance to finance and foster growth in homeownership, business development, and critical community and technology infrastructure. More than 1.5 million jobs have been created or saved through these investments. Further information on rural programs is available at a local USDA Rural Development office or by visiting USDA's Web site.