USDA is putting up $600 million to start a pilot project intended to build broadband infrastructure in rural America. The money will be available in the forms of loans and grants. USDA is calling effort the “ReConnect Program,” which is designed to connect rural areas that currently have less-than-stellar or no broadband service at all. Telecommunications companies, rural electric cooperatives, and utilities, as well as internet service providers and municipalities may apply for the funding.
“High-speed internet connectivity is a necessity, not a luxury, and vital for a high quality of life and economic opportunity,” says Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue. “We hope that rural communities kick off their planning for rural broadband projects.” Projects eligible for this initiative must serve communities of fewer than 20,000 people. Those communities will either have no broadband service at all or download speeds of less than 10 megabits per second, and less than one megabit per second upload speed. Approved projects must create access speeds of 25 megabits per second for upload speed and three megabits per second on downloads.
Priority will be given to projects that propose to deliver higher-capacity connections to rural homes, businesses, and farms.