USDA Seeks Rural Broadband Grant Applicants

The federal agency is currently seeking grant applications for rural broadband infrastructure projects through mid-May.

by The Elkhart Truth / April 17, 2018

(TNS) – INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett recently announced that USDA is accepting applications for grants to fund broadband infrastructure projects in unserved rural communities.

“E-connectivity is essential to the economic vitality and quality of life in rural communities,” Hazlett said. “Investing in broadband can strengthen rural economic growth and improve critical access to jobs, education, health care and social services.”

USDA is accepting applications through May 14 in the Community Connect program. Grants from $100,000 to $3 million are available to state and local governments, federally-recognized tribes, nonprofits and for-profit corporations. Applicants must be able to provide a 15 percent match on the desired grant amount.

“The Community Connect program helps to ensure that Indiana rural residents benefit from the numerous services that fast, reliable broadband provides,” Michael Dora, USDA Rural Development Indiana State Director said. “Particularly, the K through 12 education-focus where the program can allow students and teachers to expand instruction beyond the physical classroom and traditional school day and provide more customized learning opportunities, including telemedicine.”

The funds must be used to provide broadband service at a minimum rate-of-data transmission of 25 megabits downstream and 3 megabits upstream, which is the speed benchmark that the Federal Communications Commission has officially adopted for broadband connectivity. Awardees must use USDA funding to offer free broadband service to all critical community facilities in their proposed service areas for two years and provide a community center with free broadband service for two years.

For more details on this grant opportunity, see page 11494 of the March 15 Federal Register, www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2018-03-15/pdf/2018-05200.pdf.

In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key recommendation of the task force.

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community services such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.

©2018 The Elkhart Truth (Elkhart, Ind). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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