Small and rural communities have a new tool at their disposal to pursue broadband development.
Through a new program called Cool & Connected -- offered by the USDA Rural Utilities Service and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Sustainable Communities -- communities have a chance at developing existing broadband services or building new ones. All communities are eligible to apply, but the EPA will give special consideration to small and rural communities with "economic challenges" and communities near former USDA broadband grant or loan sites.
Those selected for the program will gain access to a team of experts who will help develop a plan for sustainable community development around broadband. The program intends to look at broadband holistically, considering the impacts and advantages including economic development of local businesses, tourism, local cultural and recreational assets, and workforce attraction and retention. The program website notes that Cool & Connected will help "communities take advantage of new or existing broadband service to create walkable, connected, economically vibrant main streets and small-town neighborhoods."
Guidelines for application can be found on the program's announcement page at EPA.gov. The deadline for applications is Feb. 24.