The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it would offer up to $600 million dollars in loans and grants, through their ReConnect Program, to assist rural areas in building their broadband infrastructure. The USDA will make $200 million available for grants, $200 million available for loan and grant combinations, and $200 million available for low-interest loans. The USDA Rural Development agency will be delivering the program.
Sec. Sonny Perdue announced that municipalities and telecommunications companies can apply for the funding if the projects being funded serve communities with fewer than 20,000 people with no broadband service or with service slower than 10 megabits per second (mbps) download and one mbps upload. The projects must increase that connectivity speed up to at least 25 mbps download and three mbps upload, according to the Federal Register. Research by the USDA found that high-capacity broadband is essential to a rural areas ability to grow and attract business, retain and develop talent, and maintain rural quality of life.
“High-speed internet e-Connectivity is a necessity, not an amenity, vital for quality of life and economic opportunity, so we hope that today rural communities kick off their rural broadband project planning,” Perdue said.
Among evaluation criteria is connecting agricultural production and marketing, e-Commerce, health care, and education facilities.