USDA Announces Rural Broadband Grants

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded grants totaling $20 million for rural broadband development in 40 communities across 17 states. More than $8.2 million of the grants will benefit 13 Native American and Native Alaskan communities.

The Community Connect Grant Program is designed for underserved communities under 20,000 inhabitants. It is part of the 2002 Farm Bill and provides funding to connect rural communities.

Through the grants, the Bush administration hopes communities will be able to participate and take advantage of the high-speed telecommunications tools.

“Expanding the reach of information technology brings to the homes and businesses of America’s most remote rural communities new opportunities for accessing education, health and economic resources,” said Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman. “Placing the vast knowledge and resources at the fingertips of a great number of Americans will bring anew a world of information and opportunities.”

The 40 applications selected were among over 300 to submit requests. Communities selected do not have access to broadband connectivity for essential services of police, fire protection, hospitals, libraries and schools.

In return for receiving a grant, the communities will provide community residents with computer and Internet access. The grant program supplements USDA Rural Development’s standard high-speed telecommunications loan program.

“This grant program gives 40 rural, economically challenged communities the resources to finally provide high-speed Internet access for schools, libraries and other community facilities — including residents and local businesses,” said Damian Kunko, CEO of the Rural Broadband Coalition, a technology and provider organization that acts as an advocacy and service group.

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