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USDA Launches Rural Broadband Toolkit to Boost Expansion

A new suite of tools is available for rural communities trying to make inroads to high-speed Internet service. The kit includes access to grants, loans and technical assistance programs.

by Stephen Huba, The Tribune-Review / February 7, 2019

(TNS) — The federal government is encouraging rural communities to take advantage of new opportunities to expand broadband Internet service.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture launched a new toolkit to support the deployment of high-speed Internet service in rural communities.

The toolkit features 27 USDA programs meant to facilitate the expansion of broadband, including grants, loans and technical assistance from multiple mission areas of the USDA.

“High-speed broadband e-connectivity is becoming more and more essential to doing business, delivering health care, and, for schoolchildren, doing homework in rural communities,” said Anne Hazlett, Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development. “This user-friendly tool will help rural customers find the many resources USDA has available to support the expansion and use of e-connectivity in rural America.”

The Federal Communications Commission defines broadband as Internet access at speeds of at least 25 megabits per second for downloads and 3 Mbps for uploads. In a 2016 study, the FCC said 18 percent of Somerset County’s population doesn’t have broadband Internet , compared to 3 percent in Westmoreland County and 1 percent in Allegheny County.

USDA’s launch of the toolkit follows Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s unveiling of the ReConnect Program, a pilot program authorized by the Consolidated Budget Act of 2018, to facilitate broadband deployment in rural areas that lack sufficient access to broadband.

©2019 The Tribune-Review (Greensburg, Pa.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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