USDA offers funding to improve rural internet | Business

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is accepting applications for up to $1.15 billion in loans and grants to help people in rural areas get access to high-speed internet.

This announcement comes on the heels of the recently enacted Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which provides another nearly $2 billion in additional funding for the ReConnect program.

“High-speed internet is the new electricity,” Agriculture Commissioner Tom Vilsack said in a statement. “It must be reliable, affordable and available to everyone. The funding USDA is making available … will go a long way toward reaching this goal in rural America.”

The USDA made $1.15 billion available effective Wednesday through the ReConnect Program. Eligible applicants are state, local or territory governments; corporations; Native American tribes; limited liability companies and cooperative organizations.

This funding, which does not include the nearly $2 billion from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, is available for projects that serve rural areas where at least 90% of the households lack broadband service at speeds of 100 megabits per second download and 20 Mbps upload. USDA will give priority to projects that will serve people in low-density rural areas.

Applicants must commit to building facilities capable of providing broadband service at speeds of 100 Mbps (download and upload) to every location in a proposed service area at the same time. In making funding decisions, USDA also said it will consider the economic needs of the community to be served and the extent to which a provider will offer affordable service options.

Applications for funding must be submitted through USDA Rural Development’s online application system on the ReConnect webpage.

To learn more, go to usda.gov or see the Oct. 25 edition of the Federal Register.

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